Clutch performances: Auburn softball advances in NCAAs

May 17, 2014

MorganEstell
Auburn's Morgan Estell, left, celebrates Tiffany Howard's return to home with game-winning run

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By Charles Goldberg
AuburnTigers.com

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Kasey Cooper remembered what teammate Austyn West told her during one of Saturday's must-win games. 

"Play with your heart. Play with your heart on the line," said Cooper. 

Cooper, pitcher Lexi Davis and their Auburn teammates certainly did. Facing elimination in the NCAA softball tournament, Auburn watched its third baseman break the school single-season home run record with her 18th homer in a Saturday afternoon 9-1 win over Green Bay; and then saw her deliver a clutch RBI single in the top of the seventh in the nightcap to lead the Tigers past North Dakota State 1-0 to stay alive in the Minnesota Regional. Davis, who has started all three of Auburn's games here, threw a four-hit shutout in the second game.

Auburn meets host Minnesota on Sunday with a trip to the Super Regionals on the line. Auburn, which lost its first regional game Friday, needs to beat the Gophers twice to advance. Minnesota, beat Green Bay on Friday and North Dakota State 4-1 in 10 inning Saturday, needs only one win. The action starts at 1:30 p.m.

Saturday's games couldn't have been much different. Auburn pounded Green Bay, leading 6-0 after two innings and 9-1 in the fourth. The Tigers had to only play five innings in the first game because of the eight-run rule. The quick lead helped coach Clint Myers save Davis for the nightcap. Safely ahead, Myers took Davis out after two innings in the first game. 

"It was very important," Myers said. "But I though Lexi, Hilary (Mavromat) and Jenna (Abbott) all did a great job, and we swung the bats pretty well in that first game." 

Cooper drove in four, Morgan Estell drove in two more. The biggest hit came hours later when Cooper drove in Tiffany Howard, who started the decisive seventh with a double. 

"We practice those situations every day: Runner at third less than two outs. It just seemed like another practice except it was real this time," Cooper said. 

Cooper didn't dwell on her home run record, either. 

"It's a foundation for somebody else to break," she said. "Hopefully, it's broken next year." 

Davis has had plenty of work, though her second game ended after two innings and two hits. That set up her shutout against North Dakota State. 

"I thought Lexi pitched extremely well," Myers said. "She made the pitches when she had to. She was tough all night long." 

Davis shrugged it off. 

"I tried to think about it, pressure is created, it doesn't really exist," Davis said. "I just went out there, with the possibility of it being seniors last games, I wanted to do it for my team." 

And Auburn won to play again. 

"Nobody wants to go home," Davis said. "That mindset, and playing with our hearts, brought us closer. We're playing for each other."

KaseyCooper
Big moment: Kasey Cooper blasts her 18th home run Saturday, an Auburn single-season record  


Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: