From the Auburn University Athletics Department:
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Auburn Tiger softball team got an early lead on South Carolina during Wednesday's opening round of the SEC Softball Tournament and had to fend off two comebacks to defeat the Gamecocks, 7-5, at Beckham Field. The win is Auburn's first in the conference tournament since 2011 and advances them to Thursday's quarterfinal round to face top-seed and cross-state rival, Alabama at 5:30 p.m. CST.
"You had two pretty even teams out there tonight," Auburn head coach Clint Myers said. "It was actually nice because there were no surprises. We knew what they were going to do and they knew what we were going to do. South Carolina is a great team and they're well coached. We're excited and we played well. Things went our way tonight. We just have to keep it going."
After jumping out to a 4-0 lead through three and a half innings, the Tiger pitching staff started to struggle and allowed USC to tie the game up at four in the fifth. Auburn answered in the sixth after a throwing error by South Carolina shortstop Codee Yeske allowed sophomores Emily Carosone and Tiffany Howard to score and take a 6-4 lead.
USC got one run back in the bottom half of the sixth, but the Tigers scored a much needed insurance run from the pinch runner, Ashley Leon in the top of the seventh.
Running for Madi Gipson after her single to lead off the inning, Leon advanced all the way around to third on a single and then a ground ball. With two away, Gamecock pitcher, Julie Serratt threw a wild pitch that bounced in front of the plate just enough to let the speedy Leon score from third as she sneaked in behind the catcher to give Auburn its seventh and final run of the game.
Sophomore Marcy Harper, who had come in the game to relieve Lexi Davis in the sixth, continued her strong work out of the bullpen to shut down the Gamecock offense and earn the save for the Tigers. It's Harper's second save of the year as she only gave up one hit in two innings of work to go with one walk.
Auburn looked to have the game well in control taking a 2-0 lead in the first inning with one of the runs coming off a lead-off home run by Carosone. The long ball coming off the first pitch of the game gave Auburn the momentum early and was exactly what the second baseman was looking for.
"We've seen that pitcher (Serratt) so many times, I was waiting for it," Carosone said. "I wanted to start the game off with a good hit. It was great. Obviously, we needed more runs than that home run and the team came through. It was great."
Later in the inning, sophomore Jade Rhodes and redshirt junior Morgan Estell hit back-to-back doubles for the second run in the inning, which would be the two-run lead AU had until the fourth.
Sophomore Austyn West hit her fifth home run of the year to lead off the fourth inning pushing Auburn ahead 3-0 and then got its fourth score off another South Carolina wild pitch, the team's first of two in the game.
South Carolina scored four-straight runs to tie the game in the fifth before the late-game heroics of Harper and Leon.
Auburn and Alabama will face off for only the second time this season as the Tigers won their last meeting with the Crimson Tide earlier this year in Montgomery, Ala., 6-2. First pitch for Thursday's matchup in Columbia is set for 5:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU.
Tomorrow's game can also be heard on WEGL 91.1 and on AuburnTigers.com. Live stats for the game can also be found on AuburnTigers.com softball schedule page.
For more information on Auburn softball, visit AuburnTigers.com, follow the team on Twitter @AuburnTigersSB or follow them on Facebook at Facebook.com/AuburnSB.