AUBURN, Ala. — Kaylee Carlson’s 20th win of the 2017 season for Auburn softball started with frustration. A pair of infield singles and an error gave Ole Miss a 1-0 lead in the first inning. But that’s all the Auburn ace let the Rebels have Sunday afternoon.
Carlson retired 16 straight batters — including four straight 1-2-3 innings — as No. 5 Auburn took a weekend series from No. 21 Ole Miss with a 3-1 home win.
“I have no problem putting Kaylee Carlson in the circle, because she wins,” Auburn coach Clint Myers said. “She wins. She’s a competitor, she leaves it out there. She has pitched magnificently all season.”
The Auburn junior pitcher got immediate help from her offense Sunday afternoon, as star third baseman Kasey Cooper and freshman right fielder Alyssa Rivera each notched an RBI in the bottom of the first. Cooper added another RBI in the third inning, finishing the day 2-for-2 at the plate with a triple, a single and a walk.
“It’s better to be confident when you’re hitting, then your mechanics will be great,” Cooper said. “This week, we really focused on mechanics. That’s led to my confidence again, which was nice.”
With the win, Auburn softball bounced back from a disappointing 10-4 Saturday loss and improved to 33-6 on the season with an 8-4 record in SEC play.
Auburn’s offense made sure Ole Miss’ lead was short-lived Sunday.
A couple of tough infield singles and a throwing error from Wallace gave the visiting Rebels a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. But, unlike Game 1, the Tigers weren’t thrown off by Ole Miss pitcher Kaitlin Lee on the first trip through the lineup.
Wallace blooped a leadoff single in the bottom of the first, and Cooper followed it up with a scorching triple down the first-base line. Two batters later, Rivera got her infield single to spin away from the Ole Miss defense, which brought Cooper home.
“Our bats were better today,” Myers said. “I haven’t looked at the charts to see how many quality at-bats we had, but we seem to be a little bit more aggressive. We went up there and took some pretty good cuts.”
Boosted by the early lead, Carlson threw three straight 3-up, 3-down innings. She retired 16 straight batters before a triple from the speedy Elantra Cox in the top of the sixth. But with the lead, Carlson has been nearly impossible to crack in SEC play.
Player of the game
SP Kaylee Carlson: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R (unearned) and 6 K
Carlson’s Game 3 win against Ole Miss was quite similar to her Game 1 victory on Friday night. After getting the lead from her teammates, Carlson settled down and mowed down the Rebels’ tough offense.
This time, Carlson had the lead in every inning except for the first. Cox’s triple and a late single served as the only baserunners she allowed after the pair of leadoff singles to start the game. Carlson, who has developed a stronger strikeout edge in recent weeks, struck out the side in the fourth.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that my (changeup) is back, so that’s another tool I can use,” Carlson said. “I think a lot of my success is my changeup and my rise ball together. Being able to use both of those has really changed in these last few weeks.”
Since her first loss of the season to No. 2 Florida two weekends ago, Carlson has won five straight decisions for the Tigers. Sunday marked her best outing during that impressive streak.
6-for-9. After a slower first half of the season than expected, Cooper found her offensive groove again this weekend against Ole Miss. Her 2-for-2 day gave her a 6-for-9 weekend with a pair of extra-base hits. Cooper’s two RBI on Sunday were her first two RBI of SEC play.
“My swing felt really good this week,” Cooper said. “It’s great to feel that. We have half the season left.”
Cooper’s strong weekend pushed her season batting average to .299, and she’ll have a great chance to get back above the .300 mark later this week. Through it all, Myers said he never wavered in his own confidence in the defending SEC player of the year.
“She’s a great hitter,” Myers said. “Again, it’s just a matter of time. Coop will be in the lineup. She plays third, she hits second. If she keeps hitting like she is, she’ll have phenomenal weekends.”
Up next for Auburn softball
Auburn preps for another weekend SEC series at home with a matchup against Georgia State.
The Tigers return to action Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Jane B. Moore Field with a home game against nonconference foe Georgia State. The game against the Sun Belt power will be streamed on SEC Network+.