TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Senior left fielder Monique Marier singled home sophomore Jessica van der Linden and junior Brandi Stuart in the bottom of the fourth inning to boost third-seeded Florida State to a 2-1 victory over fourth-seeded Auburn in a first round game in the NCAA Region 8 softball game at the Seminole Softball Complex. The victory sent the Seminoles into a winner’s bracket game against Georgia Tech Friday at 5:30 p.m.
Florida State improved to 50-17 on the season while Auburn moved to 38-26. Florida State gained its 50th win of the season for the 15th time in school history. Auburn, making its first NCAA regional appearance, will face the winner of Thursday night’s Florida Atlantic vs. Alabama game Friday at 3 p.m.
A pair of walks to van der Linden and Stuart by losing pitcher Kristin Keyes (21-11) to open the home half of the fourth began the big inning for the Seminoles. After a sacrifice bunt by senior Kimmy Carter advanced van der Linden and Stuart to second and third, sophomore Beth Wade struck out for the second out setting the stage for Marier. She singled on a 1-1 count to bring home both runners and put Florida State up for good.
“We were trying to be aggressive and trying to set the tone,” said Seminole head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. “Our hitters had a lot of confidence and were very disciplined today. We’ve been working on swinging at strikes and Mo (Marier) came through with a big hit with Jessica (van der Linden) and Brandi (Stuart) on base. Those two did a good job to get on, and she got the big clutch hit to get them in.”
Auburn had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth against winning pitcher Leslie Malerich (30-12). Three consecutive hits to begin the inning by junior Kasey Angulo, freshman Sara Dean and sophomore Martha Phillips loaded the bases with no outs. Junior Jodie Van Ooyen reached base on a fielder’s choice to score Angulo with the Tigers only run of the game. Malerich forced a groundout and struck out sophomore Lindsey Chitwood to end the inning.
Malerich struck out two and allowed six hits in gaining the 30th win of her career for the second time. She is Florida State’s all-time leader in pitching victories with 102 during her four-year career.
Auburn, which out hit Florida State, 6-4, threatened in both the third and fourth innings. The Tigers had two hits in third and had one runner (Chitwood) thrown at home and strung together three hits in the fourth to load the bases. Malerich was up to the task as she allowed only one run and faced only six batters over the minimum. Keyes, her counterpart for Auburn, also pitched well. She struck out six and allowed only four hits in suffering the loss.
“I thought we continued to hit the ball, we continued to fight, we continued to scrap,” said Auburn head coach Tina Deese. “We just made a mistake here or there. I just thought we continued to hit the ball well, but you’re only going to have so many opportunities in a ballgame to score runs, and we came up short at the end.”