Puerto Vallarta, Mex.--Auburn sophomore first baseman Kendall Veach belted a pair of home runs and the Tigers got a strong pitching performance from starter Makayla Martin in a 3-2 win over No. 1 Oklahoma in a rematch of last year’s Women’s College World Series final.
Building a 3-0 lead, Auburn held off a rally by the Sooners in the bottom of the seventh to get the victory with Makayla Martin coming in to get the save for Coach Clint Myers.
Veach led the way at the plate for the Tigers with a pair of hits while outfielder Morgan Podany added two hits as well, part of a seven-hit attack on the day.
In the circle Martin didn’t have a strikeout on the day, but kept the Sooners off-balance until turning things over to Carlson in the seventh. Carlson struck out the game’s final two hitters to secure the win for the second-ranked Tigers.
It didn’t take long for Auburn to get on the board against Oklahoma starter Paige Lowery. A transfer from Missouri, Lowery retired Kasey Cooper to lead things off before Carlee Wallace and Haley Fagan both worked walks from the left-hander to put the Tigers in business in the first inning.
With two outs Courtney Shea had the chance to redeem herself after making the last out in last season’s WCWS loss to Oklahoma. Getting a pitch to handle, she sliced a single up the middle to score Wallace and give Auburn the early advantage.
Following a pair of scoreless innings from Martin in the circle the Tigers went back to work in the top of the third with the damage coming on one swing of the bat. Coming off an impressive preseason, sophomore first baseman Veach continued that in a big way against the Sooners.
With one out in the third and facing a 2-2 count, Veach got a pitch to drive and crushed it over the wall for a solo shot. The blast up Auburn ahead 2-0 on the Sooners.
The Tigers had a chance to break it open in the top of the fourth inning. With two outs Kasey Cooper drew her second walk of the game and when Wallace was hit by a pitch that brought Haley Fagan to the plate with a chance to build to Auburn’s lead.
With two strikes a wild pitch moved Cooper to third and pinch runner Sydne Waldrop both into scoring position, but a Fagan groundout brought the threat to a close and left the Auburn lead at two.
Martin ran into her first real trouble in the bottom of the fourth following a leadoff walk to Caleigh Clifton. That meant facing the heart of the Oklahoma order with a runner base. Coming back to get the next two hitters, Martin issued her second walk of the inning, this one to Shay Knighten, to put the tying run on base for Sydney Romero.
In the bottom of the fifth the Sooners again got the leadoff runner aboard, this time with a single off the bat of Nicole Pendley. Martin just missed starting a double play with the next hitter on a comebacker to the mound with Fagan’s throw to first just a step late. Another ground ball back to the mound gave Martin out number two, but moved the runner to second with two outs.
Getting a lineout to Casey McCrackin, Martin was through five innings with just two hits allowed as the Tigers led Oklahoma 2-0.
Auburn had yet another opportunity to break it open in the top of the sixth. With one out Podany hit a laser to right field. Trying for her second double of the game, she was thrown out sliding into second. That proved to be a big play as Victoria Draper followed with an infield single to keep the inning alive.
Batting in the leadoff spot, Cooper sliced a single down the left field line to move Draper to third. With two outs and two on, catcher Wallace hit a deep fly ball to right but it was caught just short of the fence to end the inning.
A pair of one-out singles in the bottom of the sixth again put Martin in a tough spot, bringing All-American Shay Knighten to the plate for the Sooners. Once again the defense came up big for the Tigers as McCrackin fielded a ground ball and tagged the runner before going to first to complete the inning-ending double play.
Auburn tacked on another run in the top of the seventh and once again it came from the bat of Veach. Getting a pitch to extend on, she blasted it over the center field fence to make it a 3-0 advantage for the Tigers.
Escaping trouble each of the previous three innings, Martin wouldn’t be as fortunate in the seventh. After allowing back-to-back singles to start things, Auburn got some help as Oklahoma bunted the runners over to give up an out.
Pinch hitter Vanessa Taukeiaho made the Tigers pay with a single up the middle to score two. That brought Carlson out of the Auburn bullpen to try to hold the lead for Auburn. The double-barrel approach for the Tigers in the circle proved to be the right call as Carlson struck out the game’s final two batters to secure the win.