AUBURN, Ala. — On Friday night, Auburn softball suffered a comprehensively bad 6-1 loss to Missouri. Two days later, the host Tigers got their revenge with a complete reversal of the result to win the series.
No. 7 Auburn softball took a rubber game against Missouri on Easter Sunday afternoon behind strong pitching from Kaylee Carlson and key RBI from Kendall Veach, Alyssa Rivera and Haley Fagan.
Auburn (36-7, 10-5 SEC) held a narrow 1-0 lead on Missouri (24-18, 5-9 SEC) heading into the bottom of the fifth. But Rivera and Veach broke the game open with a pair of bases-loaded hits — including a bases-clearing triple from Veach that ended a long slump at the plate.
“We sent a couple of messages to a couple of people,” Auburn head coach Clint Myers said. “You saw Kendall respond to it with the triple to right-center with the bases loaded. … We’ve got to be progressing in the performances, and we told them that today.”
In the circle, Carlson only made one big mistake by allowing a solo home run in the sixth. But she buckled down to improve her season record to 21-2 with a 3-hitter. The junior threw four 3 up, 3 down innings in the final five frame for a total rebound from her Friday night loss.
Auburn turns a tight game into a comfortable win with a huge fifth inning.
Auburn put 5 runs on the board in the fifth inning thanks to one of their hottest hitters and a slugger that needed a big hit to break out of a slump. The Tigers loaded the bases with 1 out to bring up Rivera, who hit a trademark chopper that found an infield gap.
“Alyssa’s not pounding the ball, but she’s coming through,” Myers said. “She got the big hop over the pitcher for 2 more RBI today. She’s coming. She’s a work-in-progress, but she’s solidified her chances to play right field and hit fourth or fifth in the lineup.”
A few batters after Rivera’s 2-RBI single, Veach faced a bases-loaded situation with 2 outs. Veach — who moved down in the order and was pinch hit for earlier in the game — ended an 0 for 20 slump with a huge triple off the right-field wall. Her big hit brought three runners home and extended Auburn’s lead to 6-0.
“I definitely needed that,” Veach said. “At this point, I just had to stay positive and tell myself I needed to get on top of it and just let everything go and get after it.”
While Missouri pulled one back in the sixth inning on a solo home run, Carlson had a big enough cushion to finish the job and take the series for Auburn.
Player of the game
SP Kaylee Carlson: CG, 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 2 BB and 1 K
Carlson reverted back to her excellent pitch-to-contact ways after allowing 6 runs in a loss to Missouri in Game 1. She only struck out one Missouri hitter, but only five reached base in the comfortable victory.
“It’s a relief, because as a pitcher, it’s all about confidence,” Carlson said. “I had a rough game on Friday, but being able to flush that out and come back and be confident for the next one helps. If you have a week to sulk on a bad game, you start to feel a little more mental than you would than if you had a chance to redeem yourself.”
The California native picked up the lead in the third inning, which came in the middle of 3 straight innings in which she faced the minimum amount of batters.
Carlson’s two walks were a nice return to form as well, as she was aggressive in front of an Auburn defense that played an error-free Sunday.
“She’s deserving of the accolades because she goes out there and competes,” Myers said. “She gave up 3 hits. (Missouri’s Cayla Kessinger) hit her 6th home run off of her. So what? It was a solo shot. She had a 6-run lead, and she’s making them swing the bat. She’s doing exactly what we believe in.”
86. Carlson threw 86 pitches Sunday afternoon against Missouri. Heading into the contest, she threw at least 100 pitches in six of her last seven starts. The seventh one was a win over Georgia in which she threw 99.
Carlson’s breezy afternoon in the circle featured her fewest pitches since she threw a 6-inning perfect game against Ohio State last month.
“I’m just trying to stay ahead of hitters, and that’s the key to throw less pitches,” Carlson said. “You don’t have to walk people and get behind in the count.”
Carlson’s lower workload comes at a perfect time for Auburn, as it only has two regular pitchers on its staff. This late in the season, any quicker outings are important for the longterm view of the season.
“We’ve got to pitch ahead, we’ve got to,” Myers said. “She had the changeup, so that was a big pitch, and it worked well in the last half of the game. Kaylee’s most effective when she’s working ahead. Usually her control is just outstanding, so when she gets ahead, that’s when she can nibble (on the edges of the strike zone).”
What’s next for Auburn softball
Before hitting the road again, Auburn closes a long home stand with a nonconference matchup against Kennesaw State.
With a few nonconference games already canceled this season due to weather, Auburn picked up a midweek matchup against Kennesaw State a couple of weeks ago. That matchup will be Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT. SEC Network+ will live stream the game online.