*Courtesy Auburn Media Relations*
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 21st-ranked Auburn softball team was in a 5-0 hole going into the fourth inning Friday night at John Cropp Stadium, facing a tough Kentucky offense that seemed to have the momentum in the late innings. However, Auburn completed the comeback, scoring five runs in the fourth inning and adding two more in the fifth to defeat No. 10 Kentucky 7-6 and take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Auburn’s win is its first over a top-ten team since defeating No. 4 Alabama last season 7-4 on March 23 in Tuscaloosa. With tonight’s win, the Tigers are now 30-5-1 on the season, matching last year’s win total. The five-run comeback is also Auburn’s largest of the year and biggest comeback since winning against Mississippi State last season after being five runs down.
Freshman Kasey Cooper did her best impression of being the table-setter for the Tigers, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Her hit in the fourth inning started the big five-run rally and was, at the time, only Auburn’s second hit in the game.
With the score tied 5-5 in the fifth, junior Branndi Melero hit her ninth home run of the year, a two-run shot to give Auburn the lead for good. Melero finished the night only 1-for-4, but her two RBI were important ones as they both came off the big fly to give Auburn the lead. Melero re-takes the team-lead in the RBI category now with 55 on the year
Sophomore Lexi Davis got the start for Auburn in the circle, but struggled early, giving up three runs in the first inning off three hits, one being a lead-off double by Ansley Smith to start the game. Davis went on to give up two solo home runs in the third inning to Kentucky’s Lauren Cumbess and Maisie Steed, giving the Wildcats the big 5-0 lead.
Fortunately, Davis was able to settle down and throw three-straight scoreless innings, allowing her teammates to bring the game back into her corner. Davis gave up one more solo home run in the bottom of the seventh to Emily Gaines, but it wasn’t enough as Davis picked up her 15th win of the year and tallying five strikeouts on the night.
In the big fourth inning, Cooper led off with her second hit of the night, which was followed by Melero reaching on a Kentucky fielding error, its first of the night. With sophomore Jade Rhodes at the plate, Auburn loaded the bases after a perfectly dropped bunt, leaving Kentucky with no play and still no outs.
The Tigers got their first run on the board from a Jenna Abbott single and then followed it with a single from sophomore Austyn West to cut the lead to three and the bases still loaded. With Ashley Leon pinch hitting for Kelsey Bogaards, Auburn continued to put the ball in play as she reached on a fielder’s choice, allowing two runs to come in, one off another Kentucky error. Auburn finished the scoring on a ground ball by Tiffany Howard, scoring Maris Medina, completing the five-run comeback.
Kentucky nearly had a comeback of their own in the bottom of the seventh after Gaines’ home run. The Wildcats loaded the bases on Davis, but the Charlotte native was able to induce the fly ball to end the game.
Game two of the three-game series between Auburn and Kentucky is set for a 2 p.m. start at John Cropp Stadium on Saturday.