No. 25 Auburn sweeps Missouri, walks off Game 2
AUBURN, Ala. - On an afternoon that featured record-setting performances and walk-offs, No. 21 Auburn softball (24-9, 3-2 SEC) swept Saturday's doubleheader at Jane B. Moore Field to claim a series win over Missouri (20-13, 1-7 SEC).
The Tigers used a pair of home runs and a career performance from Maddie Penta to take the series opener 4-0. Auburn clinched the series win by capitalizing on a Missouri error to walk off a 2-1 victory in Saturday's finale. Auburn earned its first SEC series win of the 2023 season and its first over Missouri since taking two games at Jane B. Moore Field back in 2017.
"We had some big pinch hits in both games," said head coach Mickey Dean. "We had unbelievable defense by both teams. It was unreal to watch. Maddie (Penta) hit her spots and was able to control the lineup, and what a job that Annabelle (Widra) did coming in so early in relief. It was two fun games to watch."
Penta was the star of the series opener as she tossed the complete-game shutout to improve to 12-4 on the season. Penta tied her career high and tied Auburn's program record for strikeouts in an SEC contest with 17. Chardonnay Harris also struck out 17 versus Florida on April 27, 2019.
"It was pretty insane," Penta said. "After the game, my heartbeat would not slow down. I wasn't nervous. I just think I put so much into that game. Everything was working well. I was just focusing on every pitch, which can be mentally exhausting. I was just trying to do my best for my team."
The right-hander had a one-hitter until the seventh inning as Missouri led off the inning with a double to put its only runner of the opener in scoring position. Penta responded with three consecutive strikeouts to end the game.
Coming off the bench with a pair of clutch hits in pinch-hit appearances, Aubrie Lisenby was 2-for-2 at the plate with a home run to score appreciated insurance runs in the series opener. Carlee McCondichie also knocked a pair of hits in Saturday's doubleheader. Lindsey Garcia joined Lisenby as the only other Tiger to drive in multiple runs as she picked up a pair of RBI with her first-inning home run in game one.
Annabelle Widra earned her second victory in conference play as she was vital in clinching Saturday's doubleheader. Widra tossed 5.1 innings of scoreless relief in Saturday's nightcap. The right-hander issued two intentional walks and scatted three hits to improve to 8-1 in her debut season on the Plains.
"I was stressing my pitches, stressing my defense," Widra said. "I was doing whatever I could for the team. Having our defense behind me helps me relax and trust my pitches. I know if I miss my spot, they are going to pick me up."
Auburn jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning of game one. With Nelia Peralta on base with a walk, Garcia slugged her sixth home run of the season with a shot to left center. The Tigers sported yellow ribbons during Saturday's contest for Garcia's cousin Kaylee Rodriguez, who plays softball at Michigan and is currently battling a rare form of bone cancer.
The lead held until the fifth as Auburn added a pair of runs on a pinch-hit home run on from Lisenby, the first of the season for the sophomore. Lisenby drove the first pitch she saw to left field to provide insurance while Penta carried the Tigers the distance in the circle for the win.
After leading off the first inning with a pair of walks, Jessie Blaine slugged a single up the middle to drive in the first run of game two.
Missouri tied it up in the second, plating a run on a sacrifice fly. Auburn called Widra into the game as the reliever limited the damage with a ground ball to third base to get out of a bases-loaded jam. Widra worked magic again in the third inning, leaving a runner stranded a third with help of a pair of groundouts.
Widra continued to toss shutdown inning after shutdown inning to keep the game tied heading into the bottom of the seventh. Auburn led off the inning with a pinch-hit single from KK McCrary followed by an infield single off the bat of Aspyn Godwin to move the tying run into scoring position.
With one out, Nelia Peralta drove a ball to short. Missouri opted for the out at second and attempted to turn a double play, but the throw to first sailed high and allowed pinch runner Rose Roach to score the game-winning run.
"I was just doing my best to put the ball in play," Peralta said. "Luckily, it worked out for us. I'm trying to do my job day in and day out. I'm grateful for the team win."
Auburn goes for the series sweep on Monday night. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. CT with Monday's finale airing on the SEC Network.