Auburn, Ala.--Down by five runs going into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Auburn Tigers pulled off an improbable comeback outscoring Louisiana-Lafayette 12-11 in extra innings on Friday in the opening game of the NCAA Softball Tournament Auburn Super Regional.
The Tigers, who improved their record to 53-9, need to win one more time in the best two-of-three format to advance to the College World Series for the first time in Auburn history.
Louisiana-Lafayette, which fell to 42-11, must defeat the Tigers twice on Saturday to avoid seeing its season end.
Auburn’s second year head coach, Clint Myers, has regularly taken his teams to postseason play, including super regionals and the world series matchups, but what he witnessed on Friday was a first, he pointed out, as his team left 20 runners stranded on base.>
“Twenty left on base is a personal record,” Myers said. “Leaving 20 people on base on there things that when you go home you start pulling your hair out. We are much better ball club and leaving that (many on base.)
“It goes back to everything with have been talking about with the resiliency with this team figuring out ways to win,” Myers added. “We have our work cut out for us tomorrow because they are a good ball club.”
Auburn finished the eight inning game with 11 hits, but managed to score five runs in the bottom of the seventh with just one single as the Ragin’ Cajuns pitching staff imploded by giving up seven walks with six coming after two outs and no runs scored.
In the top of the eighth inning Louisiana-Lafayette regained the lead with a leadoff double off of reliever Lexi Davis, who threw a wild pitch with two outs to put the visitors on top 11-10.
In the bottom of the inning freshman Carlee Wallace started Auburn’s comeback with a leadoff walk and moved to second on a single by Haley Fagan.
Morgan Estell, who had twice struck out with the bases loaded, came through with a double off the wall to tie the game.
“Corey (Assistant coach Corey Myers) tells us every day that our last at bat is the most important," Estell said. "If you dwell on a first or second inning at bat then you are just defeating yourself. He came up to me in the sixth inning and shook my head and told me to relax.”
With one out and Fagan on third base, Myers went to pinch-hitter Whitney Jordan because she had been hitting the ball well in practice. Told to hit a ground ball that is what the freshman did, enabling Fagan to race home from third base and with a good slide she beat the throw to give the Tigers a victory.
Marcy Harper pitches for the Tigers on Friday.
In a game in which starting pitcher Marcy Harper gave up eight hits and seven runs and reliever Rachael Walters was touched for three runs in three innings, the Tigers took advantage of wildness by a trio of Ragin’ Cajun pitchers who walked 16 batters and hit two others.
That enabled the Tigers to celebrate the improbable comeback victory to the delight of a sellout crowd at Jane B. Moore Field that watched the action.
Game two of the series is set for 11 a.m. CDT on Saturday. If Auburn wins it advances to the College World Series. If the Ragin’ Cajuns win a game three will follow at 2 p.m.
Louisiana-Lafayette finished with 12 hits and did a much better job of getting baserunners home with just seven left on base.
Kelsey Vincent hit two home runs for the visitors, Lexie Elkins hit one and Aleah Craighton added another.
It didn’t take the Ragin’ Cajuns long to get on the scoreboard. Elkins, batting third, smashed her national-leading 32nd home run of the season high and deep over the left field fence to give the Louisiana-Lafayette a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Auburn tied the game with a run in the bottom of the first. Emily Carosone reached second base when the right fielder and center fielder collided trying to catch a high fly ball.
Kasey Cooper followed with a double down the left field line to tie the game. After two walks loaded the bases Jordan Wallace struck out Morgan Estell to get out of the inning.
Kasey Cooper follows through on an RBI double.
The Ragin’ Cajuns took advantage of their scoring opportunities in the top of the second to take a 4-1 lead.
A leadoff walk led to trouble for Harper. D.J. Sanders singled home a run and pinch-hitter Sara Corbello doubled to drive home two more runs.
Auburn loaded the bases again in the second inning with three straight walks, but Carosone and Cooper struck out and Branndi Melero grounded out to end the threat.
The Tigers loaded the bases again in the third inning and finally scored after Jenna Abbott struck out, Tiffany Howard walked to bring home a run and Carosone grounded out to the shortstop.
The Ragin’ Cajuns stretched their lead to 7-2 with three runs on four hits in the fourth inning.
A solo home run by Kelsey Vincent off of relief pitcher Rachael Walters increased the lead to 8-2.
Auburn, which left the bases full of runners in the fourth inning, left two on board in the fifth, but managed to score two runs on a home run by Carosone over the right center field fence.
The Tigers cut the lead to 8-5 with a solo home run by Jade Rhodes in the bottom of the sixth inning, but the Ragin’ Cajuns hit two homers in the top of the seventh to take a five-run leading, setting the stage for Auburn’s big comeback.
“I think it shows our character and how we are never defeated,” second baseman Carosone said. “We scored most of the runs with two outs to tie the game back up.”