Morgan Estell drove in three runs and Jenee Loree struck out nine as the No. 24 Auburn softball team defeated Arkansas 5-1 Friday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Auburn improved to 20-2 overall and 1-0 in the SEC. The Razorbacks dropped to 9-13 overall and 0-1 in the conference. The Tigers and Razorbacks continue their series Saturday at 1 p.m. CT.
"I am really proud of the way we played tonight," Auburn head coach Tina Deese said. "Jenee did a very good job against their hitters. They put the bat on the ball a few times, but our defense did its job behind her. Morgan Estell continues to be in the middle of things for us offensively. She came up with the big hit to give us a lead in the second inning tonight."
Loree started and earned the complete-game win to improve to 6-1. Loree scattered two hits, allowing a pair of doubles, and giving up one run, unearned, with three walks and nine strikeouts.
Hope McLemore started and took the loss to fall to 4-5. McLemore allowed five runs, all earned, on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts in seven innings of work. The Tigers put up four runs in the top of the second inning.
With one out, Elizabeth Eisterhold walked and was followed by consecutive singles by Kelsey Cartwright and Kelley Smiley to load the bases. Following a strikeout, Caitlin Stangl slapped a single off the third baseman's glove to score Eisterhold for a 1-0 Auburn lead. The bases remained loaded for Estell who crushed a double to the gap in left-center to clear the bases and push the Auburn lead to 4-0.
Arkansas put up a run in the bottom of the second inning to make it a 4-1 game. Brittany Griffiths reached on a fielding error by shortstop Lauren Guzman and came around to score on a double to the wall in left-center by Jayme Gee. Gee attempted to come home as the relay throw scooted away from Eisterhold, but Smiley recovered the ball and flipped to Eisterhold who tagged Gee out.
Amber Harrison pushed the Auburn lead back to four runs in the top of the third inning. Guzman led off the third with a triple off the wall in left. On a 0-2 pitch, Harrison lofted a pop-up to shallow left that the shortstop caught, but with her back to the infield. Guzman aggressively broke for home and scored just ahead of the throw to make it a 5-1 game.
After allowing a run scoring double in the second inning, Loree found a groove. Loree set the Razorbacks down in order in the bottom of the third inning and worked around a one-out walk in the fourth inning.
Arkansas would not get its second hit until a one-out double in the sixth inning. Loree followed that double with a strikeout and a foul out to Eisterhold to prevent the run from scoring.
In the bottom of the seventh, Loree fanned the first two hitters before hitting pinch-hitter Amanda Caldwell on a 2-2 pitch. Loree then forced Tori Mort into a slow chopper to Smiley at first for the final out of the game.