Auburn, Ala.--Picked to finish seventh in the SEC women’s softball race by the league’s coaches, on Saturday night the ninth-ranked Auburn Tigers competed a three-game sweep of the 12th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats to improve their record to 32-2 overall and a first place 6-0 mark in the league.
“This is our first home SEC series and obviously they are a great team,” Auburn pitcher Lexi Davis said of Kentucky, noting that the Wildcats were a College World Series team last season picked to finish third in the SEC, well ahead of her Auburn team.
“I think it is fantastic we can come out and no one expected us to do this,” she said. “It is exciting to be able to do this in front of our home crowd and beat a nice opponent.”
Auburn defeated the Wildcats 5-0 on Friday night and swept a day/night doubleheader on Saturday by scores of 4-1 and 9-7 to drop Kentucky’s record to 21-8 overall and 1-5 in the SEC.
Davis said that Auburn’s lack of respect in the SEC preseason poll is something the team has discussed. “I think that is one thing that kind of motivated us to come out and get the sweep,” she said.
Second baseman Emily Carosone said her team’s 6-0 start in the league is exciting. “It is what we have been working for,” she said. “We want to go through the whole thing undefeated.”
Carosone said the victory over the Wildcats is a strong indicator that the Tigers were underrated this year. “It just shows we are coming,” she said. “We are not a seventh-ranked team. We are a number one ranked team.”
Auburn's second-year head coach, Clint Myers, said he liked the effort from his team. “They are doing the things they need to do to win,” he said. “That is the bottom line.”
Auburn’s second-year head coach said he saw examples of good pitching, timely hitting and strong defense throughout the weekend. “There were some great plays,” he pointed out.
In the first game on Saturday the Tigers used a solid tag-team pitching performance from right-hander Marcy Harper and lefty Rachael Walters to hold the Wildcats to a single run. Harper gave up four hits and a run in 3 2/3 innings before giving way to Walters, who gave up just two hits in 3 1/3 innings on the way to picking up the win to improve her record to 11-0.
Auburn managed just five hits, but took advantage of five walks by UK ace pitcher Kelsey Nunley plus three errors to score five times.
Branndi Melero’s triple scored Tiffany Howard in the first inning to put the Tigers up 1-0. The Wildcats tied the game in the fourth inning on a home run by Breanne Ray.
In the fifth the Tigers took the lead for good on a single run with help from the Wildcats. A dropped fly ball in right center field put Cooper on third base and she scored from there on a sacrifice fly to center by Carosone, who noted she was playing while feeling ill this weekend.
Auburn shortstop Haley Fagan waits on a ground ball. The Tigers are one of the nation's best fielding teams.
The Tigers added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth inning when Carosone smashed a long home run to center field, her 14th of the season, to score Howard who reached base when she was hit by a pitch.
In the second game of the Saturday doubleheader the Tigers took control early after a shaky start by Walters, who was pulled in the first inning after giving up two hits and a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Davis, who was strong on the mound in the shutout on Friday night, got the Tigers out of the jam with just one run scoring.
In the bottom of the first inning Fagan drove home a pair of runs with a single to give the Tigers the lead. Jade Rhodes, the next batter, drove home two more with a double and the Tigers finished the inning up 6-1.
An RBI single by Howard made the score 7-1 in the second inning.
Auburn had a chance to win by the eight-run, mercy rule in the sixth inning, but Howard was thrown out at the plate to end the frame. UK then hit two home runs in the top of the seventh to score five runs to make the final score 9-7.
Third baseman Kasey Cooper prepares to catch a pop fly in the Saturday night game.Game 1 Boxscore
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