JSU softball: Gamecocks challenge No. 21 Auburn ... then came the sixth inning

·4 min read

Feb. 24—JACKSONVILLE — Count this one as a learning experience for Jacksonville State's youthful softball team.

With 2,463 in the stands as the largest crowd to see a home JSU softball game in six years, the Gamecocks fell to No. 21 Auburn 10-0. A seven-run sixth inning damaged some of the good feeling JSU gained from standing up to the Tigers and playing them tough through five innings.

"Yeah, OK, this is Auburn University, but when I was out there, I was not thinking that," JSU senior outfielder Sidney Wagnon said. "It was just another softball game ... as it should be for everybody. It doesn't matter who you play."

Of the 22 players on JSU's roster, 16 are in their first or second year on the team. The starting lineup included five players in their first year at JSU, including freshman pitcher Kat Carter, who was appearing in her sixth collegiate game.

And through five innings, it was a fight, led by Carter who challenged the Auburn lineup consistently. At that point, she had allowed only three runs, six hits and no walks.

"In the sixth inning, her ball kind of flattened out, but the thing I was proud of the most is she kept challenging them inside," McGinnis said. "If a pitcher can challenge inside, that shows a lot about them. Auburn, the way they broke it open is they just started clearing their hips and muscling the ball. It wasn't like they were shots."

The sixth inning was less fun for JSU (6-4), as Auburn (10-1) strung together six straight hits off Carter (3-2). Reliever Sarah Currie, also a freshman, then entered and allowed a hit and a couple of walks but got out of the inning. The game ended after six innings because of the mercy rule.

"We're playing these games so that we can grow, we can get better from it," McGinnis said. "We want to beat the Auburns, we want to beat the Georgia Techs. We want to play in a regional. With a team this young, this new, we have to play these games."

At the plate, JSU had three hits — a single each from Wagnon, Camryn McLemore and Lindsey Richardson. Auburn starter Maddie Penta (5-0) worked all six innings and struck out seven without allowing a walk.

McGinnis mentioned Wagnon, McLemore and third baseman Karsen Mosley as having good at-bats.

"Our hitting, that's the first time this year we have faced a 68 to 70 mph pitcher who also has a great changeup," McGinnis said. "I knew it would be work, but we've just got to learn from it. I thought the second time around, some of us made adjustments and put some good swings on the ball."

What to know

—The last time JSU drew a bigger softball crowd that it did Wednesday was 2016 when 5,000 attended to see the Gamecocks fall to Alabama 10-3.

—McGinnis said the disappointing part of Wednesday's game was the three errors JSU committed: one each by outfielders Keeli Bobbitt and Lauren Hunt and one by first baseman Megan Fortner.

—Auburn leadoff hitter Makayla Packer led the Tigers by going 3-for-4 with two runs. Jessie Blaine hit a home run.

Who said

—McGinnis on what she liked most Wednesday: "Two things I saw: Kat, she wasn't scared, and she was gritty. She made adjustments from pitch to pitch. Those are the two things I was most proud of."

—Wagnon on the loss: "I think they played better defense than us, they were more aggressive at the plate than us, and that what it boils down to. There's a recipe to win, and maybe they met more of those ingredients than we did. We've got to be all-around better. Little things have got to matter more. And play harder."

—Auburn coach Mickey Dean on his team's win: "That was a big sixth inning. I though Maddie (Penta) did a nice job in the circle because they are a team that doesn't strike out a lot, and they walk a lot. If you look at the numbers, she didn't walk anyone and struck out seven."

Next up

—JSU will play four games in Atlanta this weekend: a doubleheader against Alabama State on Saturday and a doubleheader against Georgia Tech on Sunday.

Senior Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.