Big Inning Lifts Auburn Over Jayhawks, 8-5
Feb. 16, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. –A five-run bottom of the sixth gave Auburn what it needed to erase the lead Kansas held throughout the game and ultimately defeat the Jayhawks, 8-5, at the Tiger Invitational Saturday afternoon.
Playing its first SEC opponent since the 2010 season, Kansas (6-2) jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the third inning, but Auburn (10-0) fought back with a run in the third, fourth and fifth before erupting for five runs in the sixth.
“Auburn is a great team, always solid, but we didn’t show up to play today,” head coach Megan Smith said. “We showed up for a few innings, but we took a few innings off and you can’t do that against a team like Auburn.”
The Jayhawks racked up 12 hits to Auburn’s nine, including six extra-base hits, but were hindered by 11 runners left on. Auburn, meanwhile, was held to only five base runners total through the first four innings until making offensive adjustments and catching fire with a double, a single and a sacrifice fly in the fifth – an inning in which Kansas had left the bases loaded in the top half of the frame.
“We didn’t execute with runners in scoring position,” Smith said. “And when you do that, you’re breathing life into them and that’s what happened. We went on and on, leaving runners, and became stale because of that. They took advantage of it.”
Down to their final six outs, with Kansas leading 4-3, Auburn ended up needing just one out to do its damage. Freshman Kelsey Kessler (2-2) came in to relieve sophomore starter Alicia Pille to start the inning. Kessler surrendered a single and a walk, but worked around them with a pair of pop-ups to the infield. With two outs, Auburn centerfielder Morgan Estell stepped up for a two-run double to turn a 4-3 Kansas lead into a 5-4 KU deficit.
From there, senior Morgan Druhan was called to the circle, but gave up three walks and a single before Pille re-entered the game to end the inning. By the end of the sixth, Auburn has tallied five runs on three hits. Two hits and four walks were charged to the Jayhawks after collecting the first two outs.
Senior Mariah Montgomery led the Jayhawks with a 3-for-3 performance, including her first home run of the season in the top of the seventh to give her 24 for her career, which ranks fifth all-time at Kansas. Freshman Alex Hugo and Chaley Brickey each went 2-for-4 at the plate, while junior transfer Taylor Hatfieldled the team with two RBIs.
For the sixth time in eight games, Kansas scored in its first opportunity. The power hitting duo of senior left fielder Maggie Hull and Hugo got it started with back-to-back stand-up doubles to center, handing Kansas the 1-0 lead in the top of the first. In the top of the second, KU got started again when Hull drew a walk to put the first runner on. A double to right center from sophomore first baseman Maddie Stein moved runners to second and third right before the Tigers notched their second out.
Needing the extra runs, Smith called upon Hatfield to pinch hit with two outs. The junior transfer came through, ripping a line drive over second base to bring both runners home and open the Kansas lead, 3-0. Brickey kept it going, pulling a double down the left field line to again put Jayhawks on second and third.
Auburn starter Marcy Harper issued a walk to Montgomery to load the bases, thus ending her start for reliever Lexi Davis (3-0). Davis came in and forced a Kansas groundout to end the inning. Davis would stay in for the remainder of the game, allowing five hits and two walks but only two runs in her 4.1 innings to earn the victory.
Dealing through the first two innings, Pille racked up the first two outs in the bottom of the third before the Tigers were able to get to her for their first run of the game. Auburn right fielder Branndi Melero stepped in a drilled a solo homer over the right field wall to narrow KU’s lead, 3-1.
Redshirt junior right fielder Alex Jones extended her hit streak to eight with a chop RBI single through the left side in the fifth, which helped Kansas maintain its one-run lead.
A two-out RBI double by Tiger designated player Caitlin Schultze in the fourth and a sacrifice fly by catcher McKenzie Kilpatrick in the fifth saw the Tigers continue to inch the score closer, 3-2 in the fourth and 4-3 in the fifth.
The 4-3 score stood until the Tigers’ game-changing sixth inning that saw the home team pull ahead 8-4 heading into the seventh inning. Montgomery’s solo shot with one out marked the only run KU’s rally, and the Jayhawks fell, 8-5.
Kansas will play its final game of the Tiger Invitational Sunday morning against Bryant University. First pitch is slated for 9 a.m. CT.
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