Rivera’s clutch hit lifts Tigers to 5-2 win in NCAA Regional opener

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the second time in 2018, a clutch hit by Alyssa Rivera was the difference-maker against Kennesaw State as the Tigers defeated the Owls 5-2 in the NCAA Regional in Tallahassee Friday at JoAnne Graff Field.

“I thought our energy was great; thought our effort was even greater,” head coach Mickey Dean said. “We talked about it at the beginning of the season, keeping count of how many extra ground balls we can get in the infield and stretch them into singles or turn them into singles. That was really the difference in that game; we were able to take some ground balls where we really hustled down the line and we turned a routine play into a base hit. That was very key.”

Tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth with two outs, Rivera hit a slow-roller to the second baseman and was able to beat the throw to first for an infield single. Taylon Snow scooted home and Casey McCrackin followed after the throw the first was misplayed to give the Tigers a 4-2 lead. Kendall Veach added some insurance in next at-bat on a RBI double for the decisive 5-2 victory.

“At that point you have to remember that you have two people on and just like how Coach said, you got to hustle down the line. I mean anything can happen and that’s what makes postseason so fun,” Rivera said. “Once I hit the ball, I was like, ‘obviously not my best hit, but I got to get down the line and do anything I can for my team.’ So that’s me getting on base and then those two are scoring behind me.”

With the win, Auburn advances to the winner’s bracket and will play Florida State game at 11 a.m. CT tomorrow. The Seminoles defeated Jacksonville State 8-0 in no-hit fashion in the second game of the day. The Tigers have won 10 straight NCAA Regional games dating back to 2015.

Rivera also lifted the Tigers over Kennesaw State in the regular season on April 4th as her solo homerun in the sixth gave Auburn a 2-1 win.

Pitchers Makayla Martin and Kaylee Carlson combined for six total hits allowed. Martin got the start and tossed 3.1 innings before allowing a one-out RBI single in the fourth inning. Carlson took over from there in relief duty and limited the damage by stranding a pair of runners.

Auburn quickly answered in the home half of the inning as McCrackin tripled down the right field line to plate Victoria Draper. Courtney Shea then hit a RBI groundout to second to plate McCrackin and give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.

Kennesaw State answered in the fifth after back-to-back infield bunt singles to start the frame. The Owls scored on a sacrifice fly with one out as Lauren Bennett slid under Courtney Shea’s tag at the plate to tie the game at 2-2.

Carlson picked up win No. 21 on the season after allowing just two hits and one run over the final 3.2 innings. The right-hander improved to 21-6.

Kennesaw State starting pitcher Alley Cutting (17-9) was charged with the loss in a complete game performance. She allowed seven hits and was responsible for all five runs.

The Tigers finished with seven hits to the Owls’ six. All but two Auburn starters recorded a hit.

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