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Auburn hopes to take next step in WCWS

Auburn's Emily Carosone, No. 5, gets the game-winning out against Arizona in game two of the Super Regional on Sunday, May 29, 2016.
Auburn's Emily Carosone, No. 5, gets the game-winning out against Arizona in game two of the Super Regional on Sunday, May 29, 2016. Auburn Athletics

Auburn softball showed the type of grit it takes to win a championship without leaving for Oklahoma City.

The Tigers (54-10) dropped the first game of the Super Regionals to Arizona at Jane B. Moore Field, but swept a double-header behind complete games from Makayla Martin and Kaylee Carlson on Sunday (4-1; 6-1) to clinch its second consecutive trip to the College World Series.

“These young ladies started their journey for a national championship, and they just need to continue along the lines that they are currently doing,” Auburn coach Clint Myers said. “It could be a very good World Series for us.”

The team gathered Monday for a rousing sendoff from fans at the university’s athletic complex and hope to carry that momentum into Thursday’s matchup at 2:30 p.m. against UCLA.

The winner advances to play either Florida State or Georgia on Friday. The Tigers split a pair of games against FSU in April and swept their three-game season series over SEC rival Georgia.

Auburn went all the way to the semifinals of the College World Series last year, but lost 3-2 in extra innings to Florida.

The core of the team including three returning All-Americans Tiffany Howard, Emily Carosone and Kasey Cooper will be back on the field at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium this week trying to win the championship that eluded them last year.

“That was the expectation (all season), that we were going to go to Oklahoma City and we’re going to win it all the way,” Carosone said. “That’s been our goal from the very beginning.”

Carosone, who is part of the winningest class in program history, knows a good thing when she sees it. The two-time SEC Tournament MVP described this year’s team — pitching, hitting and defense — as dominating.

Auburn won’t solely rely on returning stars to carry them to a title. It’s if not when Myers hands the ball to freshman starter Makayla Martin during the tournament.

Martin heads to Oklahoma City with a 14-3 record and 1.70 ERA. Her third complete game of the season came with her team on the brink of elimination. She allowed one earned run on five hits and a walk over seven innings with two strikeouts in the first game of Sunday’s double-header.

“She’s not a freshman anymore, she’s a seasoned veteran, and she is going to get the ball in Oklahoma City,” Myers said. “We expect the same type of performance. Our expectations are high for everybody and of themselves.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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