AUBURN, Ala. — Whatever could go wrong for Auburn softball Friday night went wrong. Offense, defense, pitching — all aspects of the Tigers’ game had their low points in Game 1 of a weekend series against Missouri.
No. 7 Auburn suffered a stunning 6-1 loss to unranked Missouri behind three home runs from the visiting Tigers. Kasey Cooper’s solo home run in the bottom of the first accounted for Auburn’s only run.
“What we’ve got to do is go out and show how to win,” Auburn coach Clint Myers said. “Again, the key thing is that this point in time, where we are in the season, talk is cheap. … We’re a good ball club. We’re still trying to figure it out. … It’s a lot of talk right now, but it has to be put into action.”
Auburn pitcher Kaylee Carlson took her second loss of the season in what was an uncharacteristically off night for the California native. She allowed three home runs in a game for the first time in her Auburn career, and her defense committed a pair of errors behind her.
“Some (hits were) missing spots, some, they did just a great job of hitting my pitch,” Carlson said. “Offensively, I think we underestimated them a little bit. They haven’t been scoring that many runs. Our plan was to go out and attack them, and they attacked me.”
At the plate, Auburn went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and just 1-for-10 with runners on base. Missouri’s pitching changes kept Auburn hitters off balance for most of the night, as the Tigers lost their first home game to an unranked team since March 23, 2014.
Auburn missed a golden opportunity in the fifth, and Missouri extended its lead in the sixth.
Auburn had the perfect situation in a 1-run game — two on, nobody out and a resurgent Kasey Cooper coming to the plate. But Cooper grounded into a fielder’s choice, Haley Fagan popped out to the catcher and Alyssa Rivera struck out to strand both runners.
In the next half-inning, Cooper had a throwing error. A few batters after Missouri brought that runner home with a double, Fagan’s throw to first was ruled to have pulled Kendall Veach off the bag. The potential inning-ending play turned into another run for Missouri.
“We had opportunities, we left the zone, we couldn’t score,” Myers said. “We made a couple of bad pitches, and they capitalized. Our defense let us down. There was a lot of things that we didn’t do right.”
To make matters worse, Auburn went down in order on just six pitches in the bottom of the sixth. Missouri sucked all the energy out of Jane B. Moore Field after Auburn had its ideal scenario an inning earlier.
Player of the game
Missouri C Kirsten Mack: 2-2, 2 HRs, 2 RBI and 2 BB
After Kasey Cooper’s home run in the bottom of the first, Mack answered right back for the visitors with a bomb off Kaylee Carlson. The next time Mack came to the plate, she did it again against Auburn’s ace pitcher.
Auburn walked Mack on her next two trips to the plate, after Missouri’s offense came alive. When Mack hit her second solo home run, it was just the third hit of the night for the visiting Tigers.
1-for-11 and 0-for-8. Auburn went 1-for-11 with runners on base on Friday night, and that rate dipped to a woeful 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. In addition to the missed opportunity in the fifth inning, Auburn left the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh to end the game.
“A lot of people were swinging early,” designated player Courtney Shea said. “She was trying to get us to chase, she was throwing a lot of pitches that were borderline strikes.”
Situational hitting has been a real problem for Auburn softball in 2017, especially during SEC play. Despite their top-10 ranking nationally, the Tigers rank in the bottom half of the league in batting average with runners in scoring position.
“It was their approach,” Myers said. “The problem is our inability to take what we do at practice and then replicate it in a game. … We work situational hitting every single day. On Thursday (in practice), we were outstanding. But (Auburn has) the inability to take Thursday’s mentality, for whatever reason, into Friday action.”
What’s next for Auburn softball
Auburn looks to bounce back Saturday night against Missouri in Game 2.
The two sets of Tigers meet Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT on SEC Network+. Makalya Martin is the projected starting pitcher for the host Tigers.