Auburn secured a likely national seed in the NCAA Tournament and a bye in the SEC Tournament with a historic series win this weekend in Tuscaloosa.
Game 1: 3-0 Auburn
Talk about a marathon! Auburn faced one of the SEC's best strikeout pitchers in Alexis Osorio and could get very little going for much of the game as she sat down 18. Meanwhile, Kaylee Carlson shut down teams the way she always has: by getting them to put the ball into play for her defense to support her.
Alabama pulled Osorio after the 7th inning and went to Sydney Littlejohn for the rest of the way. There was no way Kaylee Carlson was going to come out of the game, though. She went the distance in this one for the Tigers.
In the top of the 9th, Auburn finally broke through against Littlejohn. Kasey Cooper was hit by a pitch with one out. Carlee Wallace followed with a single to put two on. Haley Fagan then reached on a throwing error while Cooper scored the game's first run. With two outs, Kendall Veach blooped a ball into left field that resulted in a double for her and two RBIs to get the score to 3-0. Carlson shut down the Tide quickly in the bottom half and secured the win in Game 1.
Game 2: 4-1 Auburn
The Tigers made history in Game 2, clinching the first ever series win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The game wasn't without a downside, though, as Kasey Cooper left the game in the 5th inning after taking a ball to the forearm. Thankfully, it appears that nothing is broken and she should be ok for the post season.
This game was similar to the first game until that 5th inning. The pitchers - Sydney Littlejohn for Alabama and Makayla Martin for Auburn - were in a tight duel with neither giving up a run. Cooper getting plunked got things going as Auburn quickly loaded the bases. Carlee Wallace walked to put the first run on the board. Then, freshman Alyssa Rivera stepped up big again and cleared the bases to give the Tigers the 4-0 lead. Alabama got one back in the bottom of the 6th, but that was all she wrote. The Tigers brought in Kaylee Carlson to close out the 7th inning and give the Tigers the big victory.
Game 3: 2-3 Alabama
Alexis Osorio once again struck out double-digit Tigers in a great performance for Alabama that saw only two Haley Fagan home runs get points on the board for the good team. Meanwhile, freshman Ashlee Swindle got her second SEC start. She pitched well the first two innings but allowed 3 runs in the bottom half of the 3rd to give the Tide their only runs on the day. Makayla Martin closed the inning and the game out, but Auburn's couldn't rally to get the sweep.
The good news for Auburn is that Kasey Cooper returned to play in this game and didn't look to be affected on the field. She may not be able to swing the bat as well as she'd like right now, but she's at least back in the line-up.
The Way Forward
With Texas A&M losing to Tennessee, Auburn will be the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament. They should have locked up a national seed with this series win, so the SEC Tournament will be more for fun than anything else. The Tigers finish the regular season having won every SEC series but one, and they SHOULD have won that one. If two errors with two outs in the 9th don't allow Florida to win Game 1, then the Tigers would have finished with a win in every single series. Even with how frustrating the season has been at times, they Tigers are still right in the thick of things to make another run back to Oklahoma City.
The SEC Tournament will begin this Wednesday. Auburn has earned a bye with their 2nd seed. They'll play the winner of 6th seed LSU against the 11th seed (when that's announced).
The biggest thing we'll be waiting for, though, is the announcement of the NCAA Tournament. That will come Sunday night, the 14th, at 10:00 pm Eastern.