SURVIVE AND ADVANCE: Tigers head to Tallahassee Regional final

Grayson Belanger/Auburn Tigers

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In a marathon evening that ended at 3 a.m. local time and featured a pair of must-win victories for Auburn softball, the Tigers (29-20-1) survived elimination Saturday at JoAnne Graf Field to advance into the Tallassee Regional final.
Auburn opened Saturday with a run-rule victory over Chattanooga (42-16), taking down the Mocs 9-0 to advance into a second elimination game. In a contest that took over four hours and 12 innings to decide, the Tigers used late heroics to take a 2-1 victory in a rematch with UCF (31-25) to 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 coverage will be announced. Auburn will have to defeat the Seminoles twice on Sunday to advance to Super Regionals.
"It was a great game," said head coach Mickey Dean. "Both pitchers were outstanding. It was something special to watch. I thought both teams were tremendous. Somebody had to win. Somebody had to lose. That's what it came down to. It was amazing. We had some big hits in the beginning and big hit right there at the end."
Earning the win in both contests, Maddie Penta turned in a legendary performance. She closed Saturday's doubleheader with 15.0 innings pitched, allowed just three hits, one earned run and struck out 26 total batters. Tossing all 12 innings against the Knights, Penta shattered Auburn's single game record for strikeouts with 21.
"Not many coaches get as lucky as I do to coach a player like that," Dean said. "I get to work with her every day I come into work. That's special. Not everyone gets to come to work and coach someone that wants to be the best every single day."
Amelia Lech delivered the game-winning hit in the top of the 12th inning as she drove in Makayla Packer with an RBI single to left field to give Auburn the lead. Lech closed the game with three hits. Packer also turned in a 3-for-4 performance, scoring both runs in the contest. She knocked a solo home run in the fifth inning that initially put the Tigers up 1-0.
The Knights would tie 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 knocked a pair of hits, but her biggest impact on the game with a diving catch in the bottom of the eight that saved the game for the Tigers.
To get into that marathon contest with UCF, the Tigers wasted no time by putting up runs in all five innings versus Chattanooga. McCary added three hits in that opening contest, including a two-run home run in the second inning to put Auburn up 3-0. She closed the game with three RBI and a run scored.
A home run shy of the cycle, Packer, a Chattanooga native, went 3-for-4 with a double, triple and two runs scored versus the Mocs. Anna Wohlers went 2-for-2 with three RBI in Saturday's opener. She put the Tigers on the board in the first inning with an RBI single and added a two-run blast in the third inning to push the lead to 5-0.
Riley McNemar came off the bench and did damage at the plate, scoring a pair of runs and drove in two with a single up the middle in the fourth.