Tuscaloosa, Ala.--Auburn extended its softball winning streak vs. rival Alabama to five straight with a 4-1 victory on Saturday night behind strong pitching from sophomore Makayla Martin and a clutch hit by freshman Alyssa Rivera.
Martin improved her record to 18-5 this season while her Tigers improved to 45-8 overall and 17-6 in the SEC, moving into second place in the SEC with one more game left in the regular season when the Tigers and Tide square off at noon CDT on Sunday.
Martin scattered seven hits and allowed one run in six innings before giving way to Kaylee Carlson, who entered the game after a leadoff single for the Tide in the bottom of the seventh inning. Carlson earned her fourth save of the season.
“Makayla pitched very well,” Coach Clint Myers said. “The drop ball was working, she was throwing strikes and we played great defense behind her.”
Martin noted that it feels “great” to play a role in her team’s success vs. the Tide. “To be a part of taking them down at home and having five straight wins against them, it is pretty awesome,” she said, noting that the first two games of the series were intense.
“I was just trying to get ground balls and get back in the dugout as quickly as I can,” the sophomore right-hander said.
The Tigers took control in the fifth inning as Morgan Podany singled with one out. Tuscaloosa native K.K. Crocker then singled and Victoria Draper’s bunt single loaded the bases.
Kasey Cooper, who was hit by a pitch on her left arm earlier in the game, was unable to swing a bat so freshman Justus Perry came in to pinch-hit and play first base while Kendall Veach moved from first base to third base.
After the game, Myers said that Cooper’s arm was still being assessed, but noted he was optimistic that “she is going to be fine.”
Late on Saturday night Cooper updated her injury via Twitter. “Thanks for all the prayers. Officially not broken. I'm sorry for being so emotional after the hit, I thought it was my last college at-bat.”
Perry struck out with the bases loaded, but Auburn took the lead on a walk to Carlee Wallace. That was followed by a line drive double to left center field by Rivera that cleared the bases to put the Tigers on top.
“You’ve just got to go up and see the ball, hit the ball and do your job when you are given it and make the best of your opportunity,” Rivera said.
The Tide threatened in the bottom of the seventh with a leadoff bunt followed by an infield hit to first base to the initial batter Carlson faced. The right-hander, who pitched a complete game, nine-inning shutout on Friday, was sharp and ended the inning and the game with no damage.
For the Tigers it was their first series win in Tuscaloosa as Myers improved his record vs. the Tide to 6-3 as AU’s head coach fourth-year head coach.
“We play it one game at a time,” Myers said. “I don’t know the history or the rivalry, though I’m starting to. Winning five in a row against this team is great. They’re an outstanding team that is well-coached.”
Alabama dropped to 39-15 overall and 11-11 in the SEC.
The NCAA Tournament selection committee released its second and final pre-tournament projected seeding and as was the case with the previous one the Tigers were listed as a potential No. 5 national seed. The top eight national seeds are assured playing at home in the super regional round if they win their regional tournaments.
The Tigers finished the game with eight hits led by two apiece from the eight and nine hitters in the lineup, Podany and Crocker. “K.K. and Podany coming through for us was big tonight,” said Myers, who noted that Carlson is scheduled to be the starting pitcher for game three.
The teams will wrap up the series with a noon CDT game on Sunday that will be televised on ESPN2.