SURVIVAL AND EXPERIENCE: The Tigers advance to the Tallahassee Regional final

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – On a marathon night that ended at 3 a.m. local time and included two must-win victories for Auburn softball, the Tigers (29-20-1) survived elimination Saturday at JoAnne Graf Field and advanced to the Tallassee Regional final .

Auburn opened Saturday with a run-rule win over Chattanooga (42-16), defeating the Mocs 9-0 and advancing to a second elimination game. In a contest that took more than four hours and 12 innings to decide, the Tigers used late heroics to earn a 2-1 win in the rematch against UCF, 31-25, and advance to their second straight regional final.

The Tigers will now face No. 12 Florida State at 3 p.m. CT. The contest will air on ESPN+. Any additional television broadcasts will be announced. Auburn must beat the Seminoles twice on Sunday to advance to the Super Regionals.

“It was a great game,” said head coach Mickey Dean. “Both pitchers were outstanding. It was special to watch them. I thought both teams were great. Someone had to win. Someone had to lose. That was what mattered. It was amazing. We had some big hits at the beginning, big hit right at the end.

Achieve victory in both competitions, Maddie Penta delivered a legendary performance. She finished Saturday's doubleheader with 15.0 innings pitched, allowing just three hits, one earned run and striking out a total of 26 batters. Penta pitched all 12 innings against the Knights and broke Auburn's single-game record for strikeouts with 21.

“Not many coaches are as lucky as I am to coach a player like that,” Dean said. “Every day I come to work I get to work with her. This is something special. Not everyone comes to work and coaches someone who wants to be the best every day.”

Amelia Lech delivered the game-deciding hit in the top-of-the-12Th inning when she drove in Makayla Packer with an RBI single to left field to give Auburn the lead. Lech ended the game with three goals. Packer also had a 3-for-4 performance, scoring both runs in the contest. She hit a solo home run in the fifth inning that gave the Tigers an initial 1-0 lead.

The Knights would end the game in the bottom of the fifth with a bases-loaded hit by pitch. That score held until Lech's late inning lift.

KK McCrary scored twice, but her biggest impact on the game came with a diving catch in the bottom of the eight that saved the game for the Tigers.

To get into this marathon contest with UCF, the Tigers wasted no time in scoring runs in all five innings against Chattanooga. McCary added three hits in that opener, including a two-run home run in the second inning that gave Auburn a 3-0 lead. She finished the game with three RBI and a run scored.

Packer, a Chattanooga native, hit a home run just shy of the cycle and went 3-for-4 with a double, triple and two runs scored against the Mocs. Anna Wohlers went 2-for-2 with three RBI in Saturday's opener. She got the Tigers on the field with an RBI single in the first inning and added a two-run blast in the third to extend the lead to 5-0.

Riley McNemar came off the bench and did damage at the plate, scoring two runs and driving in two with a single up the middle in the fourth.

Anna Harden

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