Auburn's bats awoke during Game 6 of the NCAA Regional against South Alabama, although runs were still occasionally hard to come by. The Tigers' first run of the game occurred on a Tiffany Howard hit-by-pitch RBI. The second run was a bit more traditional as Kasey Cooper - who had a couple of great defensive snags early in the game as well - picked up the RBI to go up 2-0 in the Top of the 4th.
Things slowed down considerably in the bottom of the 4th after a very scary play in which the South Alabama runner attempted to halt her slide and collided upright with Auburn catcher Carlee Wallace. Wallace was down on the ground for a while and was carted off the field. She would return in the bottom of the 7th to loud cheers from the Jane B. Moore Field fans. The South Alabama runner Amand Minahan was ruled safe at the plate, bringing the score to 2-1.
A 35+ minute discussion ensued as to when the ball was "dead" and whether or not the runners for USA should be allowed to advance to 2nd and 3rd or return to their bases prior to play being halted for the injury. The discussion lasted for a long time as the umpires even had to consult the rule book for a number of minutes to make sure they had the right call. It was decided that the South Alabama runners did have the ability to advance.
South Alabama plated three runs in the inning for a 4-2 lead. Auburn's bats came alive late in the Top 5th, though. Haley Fagan picked up a 2-out single and then was plated by a Jade Rhodes triple that nearly left the park. A hit-by-pitch out runners at the corners, then Tiffany Howard got the 2-out single to put Rhodes home and tie the game at 4.
Then the Player of the Year finalist Emily Carosone got another two RBIs with a bases-clearing double giving the Tigers a 6-4 lead and prompting a South Alabama pitching change. The bats looked like they were starting to wake up early, but the injury to Wallace and the Rhodes triple to break out of her 0-23 slump brought the Tigers back to the hitting we've become so familiar with this season.
South Alabama put a number of runners on base in the Bottom 5th, but a few excellent defensive plays for Auburn kept runs off the board. Kasey Cooper had a great snag on a low liner at 3rd and almost turned two on the base runner on 3rd. Then Haley Fagan managed to hold onto an over the shoulder grab while being tripped to end the threat.
South Alabama walked the bases loaded and then Jade Rhodes waited out an 0-2 count for a walk to score another run for the Tigers and move the lead to 7-4 with one out. Whitney Jordan then struck out on three pitches (one a foul), bringing Tiffany Howard and the top of the order to the plate. Nothing else came through for Auburn, though, as the woes of leaving runners in scoring position over last few games came into play once more.
Rachel Walters - who took over for Lexi Davis during that rough 4th inning - worked her way through the order in the 6th, taking Auburn to the 7th inning and just three outs from their first ever Super Regional. Auburn loaded the bases once more in the 7th, but didn't add any runs scored. An issue I'm sure that rankles Coach Clint Myers.
All the runners left on base didn't hurt the Tigers, though, as they took care of business in the 7th. Auburn closed the game out and took the Auburn Regional in three games. Auburn advances to the Super Regional round for the first time in program history. As the national #4 seed, Auburn will host the winner of the Lafayette Regional next weekend on the Plains. As of this publishing, Louisiana-Lafayette will play Baylor in the Regional Final, there.
War Damn Softball! Keep it going all the way to Oklahoma City, Ladies!