AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn softball looked like it would fall by way of its usual woes Saturday night. An early error gifted 2 runs to Missouri, and the host Tigers struggled with runners in scoring position for a second night in a row.
But junior catcher Carlee Wallace changed all that with 1 swing of the bat, recording 3 game-tying RBI and later scoring the go-ahead run in a 5-4 victory for No. 7 Auburn. Wallace’s offense — and a sixth-inning RBI single from Haley Fagan — were the difference as Auburn pitcher Makayla Martin held on for a win the hosts sorely needed.
“I know that we’re a hell of a lot better than what we’re playing,” Auburn coach Clint Myers said. “That’s the scary part. We’re still winning. But we’re not winning the way we’re capable of. We ought to hit them. We hit a few balls right on the button, we had some nice hits from some different people.”
WEEKEND REWIND: No. 7 Auburn falls to unranked Missouri in Game 1
Missouri capitalized on a second-inning error to open up a 2-0 lead and made it 3-0 in the fourth with an RBI triple. Martin, who struggled early with a cut on the index finger of her throwing hand, responded with back-to-back shutout innings as Auburn (35-7, 9-5 SEC) came up with a season-high 3 double plays in the victory.
Missouri got 1 more run on a 2-out grounder in the seventh, but a successful rundown between third and home ended the contest. Martin came away with her 15th win of the season — her second in SEC play after dropping 3 of her first 4.
“Having that kind of defense behind you makes my job so much easier,” Martin said. “It’s just fun watching them turn those double plays.”
Wallace cleared the bases to tie the game and snatched the lead on a wild pitch.
The energy in Jane B. Moore Field started to fade in the top of the fourth inning, when Missouri tacked an extra run onto its early lead with a 2-out triple. But after back-to-back singles and a walk from the bottom of the order, Wallace delivered the hit of the night.
Wallace smacked a 3-1 pitch into right field that brought all 3 runners home. A few pitches after her game-changing triple, Wallace swiped the plate on a wild pitch. The play gave Auburn a 4-3 lead — its first since Kasey Cooper’s solo home run in the first inning of Game 1.
“I think more than anything, it was going to take just 1 hit to spark the explosion that our offense can be,” Wallace said. “It was just going to take somebody to do it. … It’s just all about us passing the baton and turning around to whoever’s behind us. If we don’t get it done, someone else will.”
Player of the game
Auburn C Carlee Wallace: 1-for-3, 3 RBI, 1 3B, 1 R and 1 BB
Wallace only had 1 hit against Missouri on Saturday night, but she got the most out of it. After a tough strikeout to open the game and a popout in her first 2 trips, Wallace ensured Auburn wouldn’t have the same zero RBI woes with runners in scoring position that it had in Game 1.
The junior catcher has a hit in 9 of Auburn’s last 10 games, with the only blank day coming in a win over Ole Miss. Wallace leads Auburn in extra-base hits and RBI by a decent margin, and her clutch hitting was the difference in a crucial victory.
“How many people lead catchers off?” Myers said. “She’s right there… leading the parade in RBIs. That’s the leadoff spot. It was a good team win, and we had some key people really step up.”
2. Martin only allowed 2 earned runs Saturday night against Missouri — her fewest since a shutout win over LIU-Brooklyn last month. In her previous 4 starts, Martin allowed a combined 18 earned runs. An early cut to 1 of her throwing fingers threatened another rough outing.
But Martin bounced back, forcing Missouri to hit 3 for 17 with runners on and 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position. Myers praised her after the game for “battling all night long,” as she stranded 6 Missouri runners in the win.
“Being down (2-0 early), usually I’m OK,” Martin said. “But since I’ve been down these past couple of weeks, I was like, ‘OK, no big deal. I’ve been here. I’m going to attack the batters.’ It paid off.”
What’s next for Auburn softball
Auburn gets a rubber match with Missouri on Easter Sunday afternoon.
Auburn will go for the series win against Missouri on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET/2 p.m. CT. ESPN will nationally televise the clinching game of the series. Kaylee Carlson is the projected starting pitcher for Auburn after the comeback win Saturday.
“We’re going to fight,” Wallace said. “We’re always going to be a team that’s going to fight. I think now we’re starting to show signs of it. … I think we’re going to carry that momentum into (Sunday), and we needed that. Because it was going to be a rough day tomorrow if we lost (Saturday).”