April 25, 2014
Branndi Melero, right, come home to her happy teammates after she blasted the game-winning homer (Emily Enfinger photo)
By Charles Goldberg
But, dang, if Cooper didn't hit a grand slam and Melero didn't hit the game-winning homer eight pitches later to give Auburn a most dramatic 7-6 victory over Texas A&M on Friday night. The seventh-inning heroics came at just the right time for a softball team trying to assure itself a spot in the SEC Tournament in a few weeks.
"We had the right two people up," said Auburn coach Clint Myers.
Indeed, Auburn had its power hitters up in the clutch. Cooper hit her team-best 14th homer. Melero hit her 13th.
"All the girls came up and said, 'relax, do your game,'" Cooper said.
"We started playing Auburn softball. We'll take that momentum into the next game."
A&M led 6-2 with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Then, McKenzie Kilpatrick walked, Tiffany Howard had an infield single and Emily Carosone hit a liner off the pitcher for a hit. Cooper then hit the grand slam. Melero, who had already established the school's single-season RBI record, came up driving the ball, first foul, then over the fence. Her 67th RBI of the season was big with the game in the balance.
"You just don't want to hang your head," Melero said. "We're going to score runs. As long as we stay together, we're going to come out in the end."
It was a dramatic turn for Auburn. A&M starter Rachel Fox fooled the Tigers, and then again, early in the game. The seventh was different. Cooper made that so with the grand slam. Melero hit the winner off Abby Donnell.
All of that made Auburn starter Lexi Davis the winner, who allowed an Amber Garza grand slam in the first, but settled down to improve to 18-9.
Auburn improved to 35-14-1 overall and 8-11 in the SEC. A&M fell to 31-18 overall and 9-13 in the league. The second game of the three-game series is at 1 p.m. Saturday at Jane B. Moore Field. They'll finish the series at 1 p.m. Sunday.
"We're fighting for our lives right now to get into the SEC Tournament," Myers said. "We've got to win as many games as we can to assure ourselves a chance to get into post-season. This is a post-season team."
But, Myers added, "we've got to stop talking and start playing. It was a good seventh inning, but it was a terrible first six."
Still, Auburn followed one of Myers' guidelines.
"It's the ability to stay calm, stay in the moment and not try to do too much," he said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine