Auburn drops SEC Tournament opener to Gamecocks

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Trailing by a run, Auburn softball (27-22) mounted a comeback to tie the opening game of the 2021 Southeastern Conference Tournament, but South Carolina (26-25) scored two unanswered to pull ahead for a 3-1 victory Tuesday at Rhoads Stadium.

After giving up a run in the top of the first, Makenna Dowell locked the game up with her team-leading third sacrifice fly of the season. A bases-loaded walk in the second inning gave the Gamecocks a lead that Auburn could not overtake.

“We started off great,” said head coach Mickey Dean. “We hit some hard line drives late, but right at South Carolina. KK Dismukes did a great job. She did a very nice job.”

Alyssa Rivera led Auburn at the plate with a 2-for-3 performance with a double and scored the lone Tiger run. It was her 52nd career multi-hit game, which puts Rivera in a tie for 10th in school history. Rivera also picked up her 206th career hit in the contest to now stand 10th in Auburn career history. The outfielder moved into a tie for third in school history with her 42nd stolen base of her storied career.

Entering the game in the second inning, KK Dismukes turned in one of her best relief performances of her career. Dismukes tossed a career high six innings and gave up just one run off four hits and a walk. The right-hander also fanned a career best eight batters. Maddie Penta (9-9) was tagged with the loss.

Loading the bases with three straight walks to open the game, Jordan Fabian knocked a sacrifice fly to right field to plate the first run of the game. Auburn challenged that the tag was made at the plate, but the call was upheld.

Rivera led off the bottom of the first with a double to center and moved to third on a stolen base. Dowell drove her home with a line drive to right for a sacrifice fly.

South Carolina loaded the bases again in the top of the second with help of three straight singles, a bases-loaded walk put the Gamecocks in front and force Auburn to go to the bullpen early. Dismukes retired eight straight Gamecocks before allowing her first base runner in the top of the fifth.

Auburn had a chance late as Rivera led off the sixth beating out an infield single to second base. After moving to second on a sacrifice bunt, Rivera tagged up and advanced safely to third on a fly ball to left, but the Tigers left her stranded.

With two on in the seventh after a double and a walk, Cayla Drotar pushed South Carolina’s lead to 3-1 with a single through the left side. Auburn was able to clear the bases on the play, retiring Drotar and Boesel as they attempted for extra bases. Drotar and Justus Perry collided at first base as Perry applied the tag on a diving Drotar. Play was delayed for 15 miuntes for an injury timeout as both Perry and Drotar had to leave the game.

Auburn couldn’t mount a rally in the seventh as three straight groundballs in the infield retired the side.

ON DECK

Auburn awaits its NCAA postseason fate. The NCAA Softball Selection Show will air on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. CT on Sunday, May 16. The 2021 NCAA Regionals are scheduled for May 21-23.