AUBURN – The No. 21 Auburn softball squad has won 32 games this year, and Maddie Penta has been responsible for 19 of them. The Tigers took down No. 13 LSU in the weekend series, beginning with a 5-3 win on Friday night with Penta in the circle. After dropping Saturday's contest 2-3, Penta stepped back up on Sunday, delivering 8.2 scoreless innings and setting up Auburn's walk-off winner 1-0.
Penta has been a workhorse for Auburn this year and put together a complete game for the Tigers in the series-opening win on Friday. While she gave up 3+ runs for just the fifth time this season, she got some run support from the lineup, led by a pair of home runs.
Lindsey Garcia got things started with a two-run home run in the top of the first inning, followed by an RBI single from KK McCrary in the fourth. Nelia Peralta rounded out the scoring with a two-run shot of her own in the fifth.
"I was battling in my two previous at-bats, so I was focused on doing my job to move the runner on second,” Peralta said. “The pitcher made a mistake, and it worked out for me."
The home run from Peralta gave Penta a 5-0 cushion heading into the final innings. In 24 at-bats, Penta gave up six hits and three runs while dealing five strikeouts. All three runs for LSU came in the top of the seventh, on a pair of home runs from Ali Newland and Karli Petty, but Penta was still able to secure the win.
"Scoring early gives everyone confidence,” said head coach Mickey Dean. “I thought we did a nice job of not letting up and continuing to score throughout the game. We had some good at-bats, both hits and walks, that allowed us to build up a big enough cushion to finish them off."
With Penta resting on Saturday, Shelby Lowe got the start for the Tigers and took a loss in a low-scoring 2-3 contest.
The entirety of the Tigers' offense came from Garcia, who notched an RBI single in the bottom of the third and closed out the game with a solo home run in the sixth.
“Lindsey is doing a great job making adjustments,” Dean added. “You just hope the younger players on our team follow along and notice the adjustments that Lindsey has been able to make in game. That’s part of the process.”
Garcia had two of Auburn's three hits, with the other coming from Peralta. It was not enough due to LSU getting a two-run home run from Georgia Clark in the top of the fourth and an RBI single off of the bat of McKenzie Redoutey in the fifth.
“We need to continue to be clean on defense,” Dean said. “Our pitchers need to continue to hit their spots and change speeds and locations. Our offense needs to make LSU’s pitchers pay for their mistakes and not let them off the hook. That will give us a chance on Sunday.”
Auburn's defense was clean on Sunday, and while the offense did not make LSU's pitching staff pay often, the unit stepped up when it needed to.
Penta was back in the starting spot and put in another stellar performance, and her 20th shutout of the season. In the penultimate matchup of the weekend, Penta put in 8.2 innings in the circle, holding LSU to no runs and four hits while getting seven strikeouts.
"I'm tired but very excited my team pulled through at the end of the game.” Penta said. “You don't get many pitching duels anymore. My defense really had my back and made some great plays. I wasn't expecting to get as many strikeouts today because they just don't strike out, but my defense was right there every time."
Penta dueled the LSU pitching duo of Raelin Chaffin and Sydney Berzon, which gave up seven hits and struck out seven Auburn batters.
With both teams pitching shutouts, the game headed to extras, and despite a few hits across the contest, it all came down to the bottom of the ninth. After a single by Icess Tresvik got her all the way to third, and Rose Roach followed with a groundout, Makayla Packer went to the plate with one on and two outs. And she delivered with a single down the first base line, winning the game and the series for the Tigers.
"Right now, I am very excited I pulled through for my team,” Packer said. “Penta was working her butt off, so we knew someone had to step up and have her back. I was just trying to stay focused, stay behind the ball and stay in my legs. It worked out, and we got a huge win that is going to set us up for a successful postseason down the road."
Auburn will likely climb in the rankings after taking two of three this weekend and will be back home on April 19 for a midweek matching with Jacksonville State in the annual "Bark in the Park" game. Fans unable to make it to Jane B. Moore Field can watch Auburn take on Jacksonville State on the SEC Network+, with the first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. CST.
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