Auburn, Ala. -- Sunday was Senior Appreciation Day for Auburn softball as the Tigers tried to avoid the series sweep against the Texas A&M Aggies, but the player who stole the show in the 5-4 victory for the Tigers was junior Kasey Cooper.
“It was a good day,” said Auburn coach Clint Myers. “We did the things we needed to do. We got very good pitching out of Kaylee (Carlson). We started swinging at strikes, getting the barrel on it and putting it out there. What we had to play for was pride. We were embarrassed by the way we played in the last few losses. It wasn’t us.”
It was Cooper that sent her teammates home in style with two solo long shots in the third and fifth innings. Her fifth inning bomb followed an Emily Carosone home run and ended up being the difference in the contest.
"Emily (Carosone) came up to me and said, ‘It’s nice to see you barrelling balls again, Coop,’” said Cooper when asked about her hitting performance. “It feels great. It’s a great team win. We had all cylinders working.”
Auburn got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first with a timely two-out RBI single by Carlee Wallace. Then in the third Cooper homered after an unusal situation occurred where Carosone was called out at first for leaving the base too early on a full count with one out on a wild pitch. Therefore, instead of runners on first and second with one out and Wallace coming to bat, there were two outs with the bases empty and still a full count to Cooper. She responded to the tough call with her first homer of the game. A Jade Rhodes double would follow to make it 3-0.
The Aggies were not going to leave the Plains without a fight, however. The team that had hit eight home runs in two games against the Tigers decided to hit another one. Designated player/pitcher Samantha Show led off the fifth with a solo dinger and then Keeli Milligan, who has been a thorn in the side of Auburn all weekend, smacked an RBI triple down the left-field line to bring the score to 3-2.
Auburn answered in the bottom half of the inning with the back-to-back slams, but A&M’s never say die attitude reared its head again later. With two outs in the top of the seventh, bottom of the lineup hitter Erica Russell, who came into the series with a .098 batting average on the season, hit her second long ball of the weekend for two RBIs to make it 5-4.
“It’s a little disappointing,” said Carlson about giving up the seventh-inning homer. “Looking at her average I know that I want to attack her. That’s what I did, but I left her one that she could hit. That’s my mistake, but she did a great job of taking advantage of it.”
There was a sour note in the top of the sixth when shortstop Kelsey Bogaards, starting in her first game since tearing her right ACL in the fall, went down after appearing to hurt her left knee on a successfully turned double play. During the senior appreciation moment after the game she made it back out onto the field on crutches but could not put any weight on the leg.
“If you weren’t just a little touched seeing Kelsey out there then you just haven’t seen how hard she worked to get back,” said Myers. “Hours upon hours, and that was every single day just to have a shot to get back (this season). She finally got cleared and we got her in for a little bit. We didn’t figure that she would hurt the other knee.”
Auburn finished the regular season at 46-9 (16-7 SEC) while Texas A&M now sits at 37-17 (9-15 SEC). Auburn clinches the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye for the SEC Tournament in Starkville, Miss. next weekend. The Tigers’ first game is scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. CDT against the winner of No. 5 seed Alabama and No. 12 seed Mississippi State. The contest will be televised on the SEC Network along with all the other first and second round games.