Softball Season Ends At Late, Late Show

Kristen Keyes was strong again, but AU fell in extra innings on a walk-off home run to fall to Fresno State in an NCAA Women's Softball Tournament elimination game.

Palo Alto, Calif.--Kristen Keyes put on her second ironwoman performance of the opening day of the NCAA softball tournament regional for the Tigers, but Auburn could not get things going at the plate and lost its second extra inning game of the day, 3-1, to end the season at 42-18.

Auburn will leave California still looking for its first ever softball win in NCAA tournament play to go with four losses.

For the second game in a row, Keyes struck out a career-high 17 hitters. She gave up only three hits until the 10th inning when Shasta Lewis led off with a single up the middle and then Christina Clark, who had 22 homers heading into the game, blasted number 23 off of the foul pole in left field.

The walk-off homer advanced the Fresno State Bulldogs into the next round of the eight-team tournament.

The gutsy performance from Keyes came only six hours after throwing 147 pitches in a nine-inning complete game 1-0 loss to Hofstra in game one. Then in game two Keyes threw more than 150 pitches to move her total pitch count for the day to more than 300.

Auburn coach Tina Deese said that she could not have been happier with the senior?s performance. "Kristen has given us everything that she has got all year long and she really proved that tonight," Deese said.

Coach Tina Deese

"In terms of just going 19 innings for us and she gave up eight hits on the day, I mean she was great," Deese added. "She was vintage Kristen. I was real proud of her for getting the kids up after a tough loss, both verbally and non-verbally-motivating them on the field. You can't get anything more out of that kid than you got."

The Tigers got on the scoreboard in the fourth inning to take a 1-0 lead in a game that started after 11 p.m. CDT, but also lost their starting shortstop Ashley Griffin as she was ejected from the game on the second controversial call of the day involving the sophomore. In the AU's opening round game she was called out at the plate to end an extra innings loss to Hofstra.

Following a one-out bunt single from Shannon Anderson, who then stole second base, a sacrifice from Sara Ghezzi moved Anderson to third with two outs. Griffin ripped an RBI single to left center field to put the Tigers ahead.

Then, after Griffin had run through the bag and was coming back to the base, Fresno State first baseman Christina Clark applied a very hard tag to the sophomore, who had already been called safe. When that happened Griffin reached back and swiped hard at Lewis to brush the glove away and was promptly ejected from the game.

The Tigers then moved third baseman Kristina McCain to shortstop and brought in senior Lindsey Chitwood to play third base. However, in the top of the sixth inning McCain was drilled in the head with a hard curveball that got away from Fresno State pitcher Jamie Southern and McCain would not return.

That loss forced the Tigers to make more moves in the infield as second baseman Lolani Alvarez was shuffled over to play third and backup Robin Martin was placed into the infield at second. That move left only first baseman Martha Phillips playing the infield at her normal starting position.

In the sixth inning with two outs, Keyes made a mistake and left a pitch out over the plate to Southern, who is the second best hitter on the Fresno State team. She made the Tigers pay. The junior blasted a long, high bomb to left center field to tie game at 1-1.

Fresno State went with two-time All-American Jamie Southern to challenge Auburn's hitters. The junior righty came into the contest with an NCAA low 0.41 ERA to go along with a 29-6 record and 284 strikeouts and, as usual, she was spectacular for the Bulldogs. Southern pitched the full 10 innings to earn the victory.

Following the game, Deese said that she and her team expected the level of play they saw from their competition in the 3-1 loss to Fresno State and the 1-0 to Hofstra. Deese said that AU got the best possible performances that their ace hurler could deal out.

"Anytime when you step it up to this level--we are at a regional tournament--we know that we can expect everybody's best," Deese said. "I mean you saw today in the first match-up that pitching was decent, but the defense was great from Hofstra. They really put together a strong defensive game. Then, against Fresno State, I think we put a very, very, very good competitive game together for them and that started with Kristen. We pushed one run across, but sometimes it takes more than that, but to go 10 innings and to only give up three hits (going into the 10th inning) you can't ask much more from a pitcher."

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