AUM softball advances to nationals - Montgomery Alabama news.

AUM softball advances to nationals

COLUMBIA, Ky. ---- A record-breaking season for the Auburn Montgomery softball team will continue for at least one more week.

With a 5-1 victory over Lindsey Wilson Wednesday afternoon, the Warhawks clinched a spot in the 10-team NAIA National Championship round back in Columbus, Ga., from May 24-30.

Leslie Kelly and Haley Johnson both homered for the second consecutive game, while Cassie Daniels allowed only two hits and struck out six in yet another complete game performance.

"The whole team played loose all week," head coach Chris Steiner-Wilcoxson said. "They stayed focused on what was at stake and what the ultimate goal was. Our offense, defense and pitching all did a great job, and good things happen when you have all three working together at the same time."

The final margin was identical to Tuesday's score against the Blue Raiders. Lindsey Wilson clinched a spot in the Opening Round regional championship game with a 4-1 win over Davenport Tuesday night.

The Warhawks stranded five runners on base in the first three innings. Johnson, however, got AUM on the board in the fourth, drilling the first pitch of the inning over the center field fence for her seventh homer of the season.

She finished the regional with four hits in nine at bats. AUM took control of the game in the fifth inning. Laci Driggers reached on a soft line drive to short that Madison Scott couldn't handle, and Jyssica Pepper followed with a push bunt that reached right field to put runners on the corners.

A RBI groundout from Katie Spain made it 2-0, and Kelly crushed a homer to left-center to double that advantage. Kelly had four hits, two homers and a team-high five RBIs at the regional, and she has hit a team-high .412 since the start of the conference tournament.

"I've just had a different mindset recently," Kelly said. "I made their pitcher work hard today. I waited for a mistake, and was able to do some damage when I got it."

Daniels, who allowed only one hit against Lindsey Wilson Tuesday, was nearly as dominant in Wednesday's game.

The Blue Raiders got their first hit on a two-out double in the fourth, and Travatia Bowden's solo shot in the fifth accounted for their final hit and only run of the game. The sophomore right-hander finished the regional with three wins (all complete games), a 1.33 earned-run average and 32 strikeouts in 21 innings. She allowed only five hits and held opponents to a .074 batting average.

"Lindsey Wilson's a great team with great offensive numbers," Steiner-Wilcoxson said. "Having already faced them yesterday, I was really proud of Cassie for battling through fatigue and giving it everything she had."

A two-out RBI single from Pepper in the sixth accounted for AUM's final run of the regional. Pepper and Kelly each had two hits for AUM in the game. Holly Saint added a single after coming in as a defensive replacement, and she finished the regional with hits in all three plate appearances.

The Warhawks are 44-10 entering the National Championships. They have already eclipsed their previous season-best win total of 42, which was set last season. Lindsey Wilson ends its year at 50-10, with three of those defeats coming to the Warhawks.

AUM can now turn its attention back to Columbus, the earlier site of the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament. The National Championships begin with four games next Thursday. Seedings will be announced at the conclusion of this week's regionals.

"It was our goal from the beginning to make it to Columbus," Steiner-Wilcoxson said. "And the girls never doubted that they could do it once they started playing and working together. I know they're excited about how they played this week, and we're not done yet."

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