OKLAHOMA CITY — With her walk-off grand slam — the first ever in a Women’s College World Series championship game — senior Emily Carosone was the hero of Auburn’s come-from-behind Game 2 victory on Tuesday night, performing on her sport’s biggest stage in a way most only dream of.
Wednesday night, Carosone’s dream turned into a nightmare. She committed two errors on one play in the first inning, and those mistakes resulted in all the runs Oklahoma would need to earn a 2-1 victory and the national championship along with it.
And at the plate, Carosone struck out twice, including once with the bases loaded.
“It’s the happiest time of the year and the saddest time of the year,” a somber Carosone said after the game. “There’s always a loser and there’s always a winner.”
To be clear, though, the Auburn softball team is full of winners after the remarkable season it just completed. The Tigers won the SEC Tournament, qualified for their second straight Women’s College World Series and then reached their first-ever WCWS championship series.
Auburn lost Game 1 to Oklahoma before rallying from a seven-run, second-inning deficit in Game 2 to stun the Sooners in eight innings, a victory won when Carosone blasted a grand slam into the bleachers.
But early in Wednesday’s game, OU’s Shay Knighten reached first base on after Carosone mishandled a ground ball.
Then, while faking a throw to first base, the ball slipped out of her hand and allowed the Sooners’ Caleigh Clifton to score from third.
A couple batters later, OU’s Fale Aviu beat a throw to first base, allowing Knighten to score from third. Those were the only two runs OU scored in the whole game. Both were unearned because of Carosone’s two-error play.
“I mean, I don’t get it,” Carosone said. “That’s never happened before, but it happened today. It slipped.”
In the top of the third inning, Auburn loaded the bases and appeared to be threatening OU star pitcher Paige Parker when Carosone stepped to the plate, but she struck out swinging in three pitches.
A few different Auburn players were asked during the postgame news conference about the frustration of being such a strong offensive team but struggling Wednesday.
Junior third baseman and All-American Kasey Cooper used her answer to tearfully stick up for Carosone.
“I’m frustrated to the fact that we know we’re better, but I’m more frustrated that we didn’t have Emily’s back,” she said, becoming more emotional as she spoke. “Emily had a bad game, and we weren’t there for her, and we’re better. When Whitney (Jordan) had a bad game, we got behind her and we gave her the support, and Emily shouldn’t be feeling this way because we didn’t have her, and that’s what I have to say about that.”
Despite the way it ended, Carosone and her fellow seniors can leave knowing they were part of transforming the Auburn softball program during their time with it. The 2016 seniors were sophomores during coach Clint Myers’ first season on the job.
“I literally sometimes just sit down and really think about our freshman year, and then the transition our sophomore year, and that was just in itself a huge leap, and then we took another huge leap, and now we’re here playing for a national title,” said senior left fielder Tiffany Howard.
“I never thought in a million years I would be doing this, and I feel like none of us freshmen really did during that time. I’m so proud of us for what we did, and I guarantee you they’re going to be back next year to finish it off.”