Jones' Big Day Keeps Tigers Alive In SEC

The Auburn softball team stayed alive in the SEC Tournament with a victory over Mississippi State.

Tuscaloosa, Ala.--Paige Jones came through in a big way for the Auburn softball Tigers on Saturday afternoon as she blasted a game tying home run in the bottom of the sixth inning and then slapped a walk off single in the bottom of the seventh to give the Tigers a 4-3 victory over Mississippi State that advances them on to face LSU at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night.

The win is Auburn's 41st of the season, which continues to build on its school record total and also is the first time the Tigers have won two SEC Tournament games since 2001.

In the seventh inning with the game tied at three runs apiece, Sara Dean reached on a error and Martha Phillips got her first hit of the tournament to put runners on first and second with no-outs. Up next, Ashley Griffin roped what looked to be the game-winning hit to deep right center, but Iyhia McMichael chased down the ball in the gap for the first out of the inning.

Sara Ghezzi was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Then came Jones, who was 3-4 on the day with two huge runs batted in. She got behind 0-2 and on the 1-2 pitch ripped a walk off shot to right center to advance the Tigers into the night session.

Paige Jones is greeted at the plate after her game-tying home run on Saturday.

The Bulldogs got off to a quick start by scoring one run in the first inning with the help of a Tigers' fielding error from first baseman Phillips. Kate Jaspers started things with a single to right, then Jennifer Waterman was able to draw a walk from Auburn starter Holly Currie to put runners on first with only one out.

Following a ground out from Blaire Brown that advanced the runners to second and third, Lindsay Nelson grounded a slow roller to Lolani Alvarez, who flipped the ball over to Phillips, but she could not handle the toss and that allowed Jaspers to score on the play. However, Phillips then noticed Waterman trying to score and gunned a throw to Sara Dean at the plate, who was able to put the tag on Waterman to end the inning.

The Tigers struck right back in the bottom half of the inning with two runs of their own to take the lead. Kristina McCain started things off with a leadoff single to right. Shannon Anderson moved McCain over to second and Dean moved her over to third to set up a two out rally. Phillips drew a walk to put runners on the corners and then Griffin came through with a two-out single up the middle to score McCain. Ghezzi then legged out an infield single to load the bases for the Tigers.

Saturday's star Jones slapped a shot to third that Tanelda McDonald couldn't handle that allowed Phillips to score form third. On the play Griffin rounded third wildly and was caught in a rundown to end the inning.

The Bulldogs, who drop to 38-15 with the loss, added two more in the top of the second on a two out, two-run triple from McMichael to give them the lead back at 3-2.

The Tigers threatened to do more damage in the bottom half of the second as they had the bases loaded with two outs, but were unable to capitalize on the situation as Phillips flied out to center field to end the threat.

On the mound the head coach Tina Deese went with Currie, who has been solid as a second starter this season. She went six innings and allowed three runs, all unearned, on four hits and struck out four Bulldog hitters. In the seventh Kristen Keyes came in and sat down the Bulldogs in order and for her efforts came away with the win when the Tigers scored in the bottom half of the inning.

At the plate the Tigers were strong on Saturday afternoon with Jones leading the way. Next, McCain was 2-4 with a run scored, Griffin added a hit and an RBI and Alvarez was 2-3 on the afternoon.

The Bulldogs were led at the plate by McMichael who was 2-3 with the two runs batted in. Jaspers was 1-3 with a run scored and Megan O'Nan went 1-2 and scored a run as well for the Bulldogs in the loss.

In the circle, the Bulldogs played dueling pitchers as Kelli Miller and Melissa Massey split the duties in the loss. Miller got the start and went the first 1 1/2 innings then Massey took over until the sixth and Miller came back in and took the loss. Miller gave up three runs on five hits in 2 1/3 innings. Massey gave up one run on five hits in her four innings of work.

Next, Auburn moves on to take on LSU at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. If the Tigers can win they will face LSU again on Sunday at 9:00 a.m. and the winner of that game will head into the Championship round on Sunday afternoon.

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