AUBURN, Ala. – The No. 22/22 Auburn Tigers softball team completed a five-run comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday night with a grand slam by freshman Kasey Cooper and a solo home run in the next at-bat from junior Branndi Melero to defeat No. 23/23 Texas A&M, 7-6, at Jane B. Moore Field. The win was Auburn's third in a row and second-straight conference victory. It was also Auburn's largest comeback victory since beating Mississippi State (March 29, 2013) last season, 7-5, after being down 5-0.
"Everyone was excited," Auburn head coach Clint Myers said. "It was a great win for us. It was a come from behind win, scoring five in the seventh. You talk about those kinds of wins. The seventh inning was an awesome inning, but we have got to play better in the first six."
The Tigers were down 5-0 after two and a half innings, but started to chip away at the Aggie lead in the bottom of the third. It was a 5-2 game after six complete and the Aggies pulled back ahead, 6-2, in the top of the seventh for what seemed like its only need insurance run.
After pinch hitter Ashley Leon grounded out to second for the first out in the bottom of the seventh, junior McKenzie Kilpatrick stepped in the box for her own pinch-hit plate appearance and worked out the four-pitch walk to get the rally started.
The next batter, Tiffany Howard, who already had one hit earlier in the game, stepped in the box and beat out an infield single to second-base, which allowed Kilpatrick to reach second safely with still only one out.
Now back at the top of their lineup, Auburn looked to capitalize with runners in scoring position and still only one out. Sophomore Emily Carosone torched her second hit of the night right up the middle where A&M pitcher, Rachel Fox, nearly got a glove on it, but slowed it down enough to allow her to reach first safely and load the bases for Cooper.
With the Auburn crowd on their feet, Cooper had been worked to a 1-2 count by Fox after fouling off two pitches. The next pitch she saw was perfect as she sent a high fly ball toward right field, landing well over the wall for the grand slam and a tie game at 6-6. The hit was Cooper's only hit of the game and second grand slam of the season.
The frenzied Orange and Blue crowd didn't have to wait much longer to be sent home happy as Melero stepped into the batter's box to face the relief pitcher, Abby Donnell. Donnell threw seven pitches at Melero, three off foul balls. Melero smacked one toward right field, nearly in the same spot as Cooper's for her 13th home run of the year and conference-leading 67th RBI this season.
The Auburn starting pitcher, Lexi Davis, didn't have the greatest of starts, giving up her own grand slam in the top of the first to Amber Garza, giving A&M the early 4-0 lead. However, she settled down for the remainder of the game, throwing four scoreless innings, only giving up the one run in the third inning and seventh inning and keeping AU in the game. Davis finished with the victory to move to 18-9 on the year, scattering 10 hits with two strikeouts and no walks.
Three Auburn players finished the night with multi-hit games. After Carosone and Melero both completed two-hit games with two runs scored each, Howard notched her eighth multi-hit game of the year and third-straight game with two hits or more. In the last eight games, Howard has tallied 13 hits with two coming on Friday against Texas A&M.
"It's big," Myers said. "We've got to come out and play like we talked. We've got to stop talking and start playing. It's a big win for us. Hopefully it will catapult us forward to make a difference."
Auburn returns to the field on Saturday for game two of the three-game series with Texas A&M. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m. at Jane B. Moore Field. Saturday's game will also be Fan Appreciation Day, as prizes will be given out to fans throughout the game.