Kendall Veach (above) smacks the game-winning homer.
Knoxville, Tenn.--Kaylee Carlson posted her second consecutive shutout victory and Kendall Veach came through with two clutch plays as Auburn advanced to the semi-finals of the SEC Softball Tournament on Thursday evening.
With Kentucky runners on first and second base in the top of the sixth inning and one out, sophomore first baseman Veach started a perfectly executed 3-6-3 double play to get the Tigers out of a jam.
“We spend a lot of time on the defense,” Coach Clint Myers said, noting that the play was a key to victory. The Tigers lead the nation in double plays with 45.
In the bottom half of the inning Veach lined a pitch over the right center field fence to score Alyssa Rivera, who reached base with a two-out walk.
“I choked up on the bat and took the barrel to the ball, that’s all I was focused on,” Veach said about her homer. “If I had good, hard contact, I knew something good was going to come of it.”
The Tigers will play LSU, a 6-2 winner over host Tennessee, in a game scheduled for 4:30 p.m. CDT on Friday. However, rain is forecast for Knoxville so the start time is in doubt. The other semi-final matchup will feature Ole Miss, which upset Florida 2-0, vs. Alabama, which upset Texas A&M 2-1 in extra innings. Game time is set for 2 p.m. CDT.
“We only got three hits and we have to do a lot better job if we are going to make SEC history,” said Myers, whose team is attempting to be the first to win the league tournament for a third consecutive year.”
The Tigers improved to 46-9 with the victory while Kentucky fell to 36-17 as Auburn beat the Wildcats for the sixth straight time in the series. With SEC regular season champion Florida being upset 2-0 by Ole Miss, the Tigers are the highest seed going into the semi-finals.
Kaylee Carlson throws a pitch on Thursday in Knoxville.
“We won--that’s the bottom line,“ Myers said. “That is one thing about this team. They figure out ways to win. It is a different hero each night. Tonight it was Kendall Veach, who hit the home run to put us ahead.
“You saw Kaylee in the seventh inning,” Myers added. “When she is in the seventh with the lead you can see how tough she is. She is just a tough kid--very smart..and she is a competitor. She loves to win.”
Carlson, who leads the SEC in wins, improved her record to 26-3. She gave up six hits, struck out two and did not walk a batter.
“I honestly thinkI pitch better when the game’s tighter because I know that I have to be more focused and I can’t make misses on pitches that usually won’t hurt me, but I know that sooner or later into the game, they’re going to find a way to score runs, so as long as I can keep them it, they’ll do it for me," Carlson said.