Carlee Wallace. Momentum shifter extraordinaire.
Heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, the seventh-ranked Auburn Tigers faced a 3-0 hole at the hands of the visiting Missouri Tigers. Freshman outfielder Carmyn Greenwood smoked a single right up the middle on the first pitch she saw to begin what would be a four-run, lead-changing stanza.
After the Tigers had placed runners on the corners with no outs, Missouri switched pitchers, relieving starter Madi Norman in favor of freshman Parker Conrad. Conrad was quickly pulled for game one starter Cheyenne Baxter, who became the victim of Wallace’s bat. Auburn (35-7, 9-5 SEC) fended off a late Missouri rally to make good of Wallace’s efforts and tie the series with a 5-4 victory on Saturday evening.
Wallace obliterated a three-run, base-clearing triple to tie the game at three a piece following Baxter’s arrival in the circle. Pitching next to Kasey Cooper, Baxter tossed a wild ball over the head of her catcher, allowing Wallace to steal home and score Auburn’s fourth run of the frame.
“I knew they weren’t going to put anything by me,” Wallace said. “There’s nothing that I can’t hit, nothing that I haven’t seen. I was just trying to stay relaxed.”
Aiding in Wallace on offense were co-Californian Makayla Martin’s defensive exertions. Martin pitched a complete game, allowing only two earned runs in 116 pitches.
“That’s the girl who pitched in the College World Series,” Auburn head coach Clint Myers said. “That’s the girl who goes out and competes. The scary thing is, she can still get better. She battled all night long.”
In the top of the second inning, Martin (15-5) tossed four-straight errant pitches to easily walk the Missouri batter. Favoring her right thumb, the sophomore was met in the circle by Clint Myers and staff. She shrugged it off, and preceded to claim the victory.
“It was bleeding at the beginning of the game,” Martin said. “I had tape over it and it started slipping, so I just took it off.” Martin laughed. “It probably has dirt in it now.”
The home Tigers received an all-around offensive effort in the win, as Cooper, Alyssa Rivera, and Carmyn Greenwood each turned in efficient, 2-4 outings. Senior Haley Fagan chimed in as well, serving as the only Auburn batter not named Carlee Wallace to account for a run, when her one-hop single brought home Victoria Draper in the sixth.
The nine-hit jaunt could not reach slumping sophomore Kendall Veach, however. Veach, who is 0 for her last 16 at the plate, finished 0-4 at Jane B. Moore on Saturday. The first baseman’s error in the second also gave up Missouri’s first two runs, when a successful catch would have ended the stanza and left Auburn unscathed.
“The one person that knows it the most is her,” Myers said. “We may have to tweak the lineup a little bit tomorrow. We worked with her before the game and she was hitting rockets. That’s the part when the light has got to come on. We’ve got to stop trying so hard and start trying a little bit smarter.”
Assisting in the winning effort was Auburn’s season-high of three double plays, adding to their nation-leading mark of 34. Martin personally accounted for the third double play in the sixth inning, when the pitcher made an athletic snag in the circle and a quick toss to first, catching Missouri’s Rylee Pierce off the base.
“Having that kind of defense behind you makes my job so much easier,” Martin said. “It’s just fun watching them.”
Martin had to work for the win down the stretch, as Missouri (24-17, 5-8 SEC) began to mount a comeback in the top of the seventh, needing two runs to extend the ballgame. Martin walked the first two batters and eventually found the bases loaded with two outs. A subsequent frantic sequence scored a run for Mizzou off an RBI single, but Kasey Cooper was able to track down the runner heading home to tag-out, sealing the victory.
Auburn will host the rubber game on Sunday afternoon at Jane B. Moore, with the first pitch set for 2 p.m. CST. A win would gift Auburn their third-straight conference series and four of their first five in 2017.