COLUMBIA, S.C. – Sophomore Emily Carosone knew what to expect, and she took full advantage Wednesday on the first pitch of her first Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Carosone drove the first offering from South Carolina pitcher Julie Sarratt over the left-centerfield fence to give the No. 22 Auburn the lead. Despite some harrowing moments, the Tigers never trailed and went on to beat the Gamecocks 7-5 and advance to a Thursday night showdown against regular-season champion Alabama at Beckham Field.
No. 9 seed Auburn, which lost two of three to South Carolina here last weekend, improved to 39-16-1. No. 8 seed South Carolina dropped to 35-20.
“We’ve seen that pitcher so many times, I was ready for it,” Carosone said. “I wanted to start it off with a great hit. I was like ‘Let’s go, let’s do it.’ It was great. Obviously, we needed a lot more runs than one home run, and we got it. The team did great.”
Auburn scored two runs in the first and two in the fourth to take a 4-0 lead. But the Gamecocks used two home runs off Auburn starter Lexi Davis to pull even at 4-4 in the sixth. That’s when Kelsey Cooper, Auburn’s leading hitter who was 0-for-3, found a way to help her team win. After Tiffany Howard walked and Carosone singled, Cooper put down a sacrifice bunt to move them to second and third. Branndi Melero grounded to third, scoring Howard. Carosone scored when Lauren Masters threw wildly to first. Auburn led 6-4.
“You don’t have to say a lot about Kasey,” Myers said. “She’s had a phenomenal year. She’s a great athlete and instrumental in this program. Regardless of who you are, in that situation you have to do it. She put down a great sacrifice bunt and we scored two because of that.”
After another South Carolina home cut the gap to 6-5 in the bottom of the sixth, Marcy Harper replaced Davis on the mound. She gave up one hit in two shutout innings. Auburn got an insurance run in the seventh.
“They are a great team, well-coached,” Myers said. “They’ll do well in the playoffs. We are excited. It thought we played well, and things went our way tonight. We just have to keep it going.”
Davis gave up five runs on six hits in five innings to get the win and move to 20-10.
“She’s the workhorse,” Myers said. “She’s the one who got us where we are, has pitched the most innings. She hasn’t been prone to the home run ball. We knew Marcy was ready.”
No. 8 hitter Kelsey Bogaards broke out of a slump, going 3-for-4 and scoring a run. Every starter but Cooper had at least one hit. Carosone and Jade Rhodes had two hits apiece. Austyn West hit a solo homer.
Auburn will play Alabama for the second time. The Tigers won 6-2 in Montgomery in a nonconference game on April 16. Bogaards said the Tigers wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Oh, yeah,” Bogaards said. “That’s what we were looking for. It’s going to be a great game.”