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Rachael Walters, Carlee Wallace push Auburn to NCAA win
May 20, 2016
Rachael Walters struck out 10 to help Auburn beat Jacksonville State
Rachael Walters struck out 10 to help Auburn beat Jacksonville State

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. -- Rachael Walters sort of didn't follow the script. She didn't really throw to contact. She didn't let the other team hit it and rely on her defense to make every play as the game plan mandates. 

She, oops, struck out 10.

Walters came out of the bullpen in the third to get Auburn out of a jam and the Tigers relied on the late-game heroics of Carlee Wallace, whose seventh-inning sacrifice fly helped produce a 2-1 win over Jacksonville State in an NCAA softball regional opening game Friday at Jane B. Moore Field.

The Tigers advanced to a 1:30 p.m. game Saturday against USC Upstate, which beat Oregon State 5-2 in Friday's other regional game. Jacksonville State and Oregon State play in an elimination game at 4. The loser of Auburn-USC Upstate and the winner of the second game will play at 6:30. The regional champion will be crowned Sunday.

Walters arrived in the third inning with runners on second and third and one out. She struck out the next two hitters, and then struck out the side in the next inning.

"I didn't focus too much on strikeouts," Walters said.

"For me,"  said Auburn pitching coach Corey Myers, "Rachael's best performance was coming in with people in scoring position and just stopping their rally right there.

"Big pitchers want the ball all the time. As of late, when she has her opportunities, she's made the most of it."

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"I know the struggle because we hit off them in practice," Wallace said. "I'm like, 'Are you serious? How many times is she going to keep throwing me the curve ball and I'm just going to keep missing the ball.'"

Wallace knows the frustration of facing Walters.
Auburn improved to 50-9, hitting that win total for the third time in program history. Jacksonville State fell to 41-16.

Auburn had the bases loaded with nobody out in the seventh with SEC player of the year Kasey Cooper at the plate. A forceout at home kept the bases loaded with one out with Wallace coming up.

"I just knew I had to be ready no matter what," she said. "I have all the faith in the world in Coop. I knew she was hungry. I knew it was part of my job to be locked in and focused no matter what."

Auburn swept through the Southeastern Conference Tournament last weekend, beating the nation's No. 1, No. 4 and No. 12 teams. Jacksonville State proved to be a worthy opponent as well. Auburn was limited to an Emily Carosone RBI single in third and Wallace's sac fly in the seventh.

Auburn had just three hits off Whitney Gillespie. But Auburn's pitchers limited the Gamecocks to three hits as well. Walters allowed one hit in 4 2/3 innings, striking out 10 of the 16 batters she faced.

"As well as we played week, it almost looked like we were nervous. And why?" asked head coach Clint Myers. "We played the 1, 4 and 12, and were magnificent. The key thing is to go out and be ourselves."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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