Auburn’s arms ran out of gas and its bats came up short Sunday afternoon as the Auburn softball team fell to Clemson 5-1 in the winner-take-all NCAA Regional final at Clemson.
Auburn’s season ended there. Auburn won 43 games in its best season under Mickey Dean, earning a third-place finish in the SEC’s regular-season standings, but didn’t seem to peak at the right time in the postseason. Auburn’s regional-round exit followed a loss to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament semifinals.
Auburn on Sunday won the first game against Clemson 5-2, forcing a winner-take-all finale in the double-elimination regional. On Saturday, Auburn had lost to Clemson 7-0 before bouncing back in its elimination game against Cal State Fullerton to win 5-0 and get to Sunday.
In Sunday’s opener, Bri Ellis blasted a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning and Auburn won to give itself a chance.
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Auburn ace Maddie Penta, the SEC Pitcher of the Year, pitched a complete game in the opener on 139 pitches. She then started the finale, but as her pitch count rose, she was pulled in the second inning when Clemson loaded the bases. Shelby Lowe came on in relief but Clemson was up 3-0 by the time the inning was over.
Meanwhile, runs were hard to come by for the Auburn bats, which cooled at times this year during an up-and-down season for the Tigers at the plate, who could never quite match Penta’s excellence in the circle.
Penta, a junior, is set to return to Auburn next season, at the end of which the Tigers will host the 2024 SEC Tournament. Next season will be the last softball season before Oklahoma and Texas join the SEC for the 2024-25 academic calendar.