Auburn, Ala.--Trailing by a half dozen runs before even getting to bat, SEC softball leader Auburn steadily battled back to defeat Tennessee 12-9 on Saturday to take the series two games to won.
A two-run homer over the center field fence by senior All-American left fielder Branndi Melero put the Tigers ahead for good with the game tied at 9-9 in the sixth inning.
“It was awesome,” Melero said of her home run and the comeback victory. “The team and the crowd were so pumped. It kind of followed me in the at-bat.”
A Jane B. Moore Field record crowd paid crowd of 1,796 watched the contest as Rachel Walters picked up the win with 6 1/3 innings of relief.
The Tigers improved to 10-2 in the SEC and 37-5 overall while Tennessee dropped to 7-5 in the league and 27-9 overall.
“We didn’t let up at all,” Melero said of how her team rallied from the large early deficit. “We stayed together as a team and went out there to fight and get the crowd motivated. It (the deficit) really didn’t phase us at all.”
Coach Clint Myers noted that it was not the first time his Tigers have given up a large number of runs in the opening inning and won the game. “This is a unique ball club,” Myers said. “They don’t ever give up. As long as they have a breath they are fighting.
“We didn’t try to score six right back at them,” he added. “If you look at the scoreboard we scored in every inning but one.”
Auburn starting pitcher Lexi Davis didn’t make it through the first inning as the Vols scored six runs, all with two outs, before the Tigers even got to the plate.
The Vols did their damage with five hits, one Auburn error and a hit batter.
The Tigers began their comeback with a single run in the bottom of the first inning. Tiffany Howard led off with a single and scored from third on a sacrifice fly by Melero.
The Tigers tied the game with five runs in the second inning. Morgan Estell started the rally with a one-out single and scored on a double into the gap in left center field by Jenna Abbott
After a popup out by Carlee Wallace the Tigers scored again on a triple by Tiffany Howard to cut the margin to 6-3. Emily Carosone then singled home Howard and scored on a home run to center field by Kasey Cooper to tie the game at 6-6.
The Tigers took their first lead of the game in the fourth inning. A one-out walk to Jade Rhodes was followed by a rifle shot of a home run over the right center field fence by Morgan Estell to make the score 8-6.
Auburn added a single run in the fourth inning when Cooper was hit by a pitch and advanced to third base on a single by Melero. A line drive deep to left field by Fagan was a sacrifice fly to make the score 9-6.
The Vols tied the game with three in the top of the fifth inning on two singles and three walks.
Auburn struck for three runs in the sixth inning to regain the lead with Carosone starting the rally with a hard-hit single to right center field. Melero followed with a home run to center field to make the score 11-9.
Fagan, the next batter, was hit by a pitch. She advanced to third on a double by Rhodes where she scored on a groundout to second by Estell to add an insurance run making the final score 12-9.
Estell drove home three runs while Howard and Carsone finished with three hits apiece for the Tigers.
Auburn will return to action for a 5:30 p.m. CDT home game on Wednesday vs. UAB before traveling to Texas A&M for singles games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
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