Kaylee Carlson, Kendall Veach send Auburn softball past Kentucky in SEC Tournament

Kaylee Carlson, Kendall Veach send Auburn softball past Kentucky in SEC Tournament

With Kaylee Carlson throwing yet another gem and locked a pitching duel with Kentucky’s Erin Rethlake, Auburn’s Kendall Veach came through with the momentum-shifting defensive play and then delivered the deciding blow.

After Kentucky got three straight singles to open the sixth inning, Veach thwarted the scoring threat by helping turn an inning-ending 3-6-3 double play, Auburn’s nation-leading 45th of the season.

In the bottom of the frame, the Tigers sophomore first baseman smacked a two-out, two-run blast to right-center to send No. 2 seed Auburn past No. 7 seed Kentucky, 2-0, in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium in Knoxville Thursday night.

“I was just looking for a pitch away from me and she gave it to me,” Veach said of her team-high 12th home run this season, which came after she fouled off two 0-2 pitches to stay alive for the pivotal 1-2 pitch. “I was wanting to put the barrel on the ball, so that’s what I did. It felt amazing. It was awesome I was really happy to do that for Kaylee because she was working her butt off.”

Rewinding Auburn’s 2-0 win over Kentucky

Auburn (46-9) advances to play No. 6 seed LSU in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. CT Friday after arguably the most clutch hit of the year for Veach, who had just one other two-out home run this season. Her heroics were setup by freshman All-SEC outfielder Alyssa Rivera drawing a walk, just her ninth of the season in 116 plate appearances and one of just three in the game for Auburn.

“She’s starting to figure things out,” Auburn coach Clint Myers said. “I wish she would speed up and figure more, but we talked about that very point afterwards. To get Kendall up in that situation was huge things for us.

“(Rivera) needs to have that mindset a little more often, but that double she had in the second was a nice piece of hitting too.”

Veach’s big swing put the Wildcats (36-17) down for good but she and Carlson combined to take the air out of Kentucky’s collective sails earlier in the inning.

The only time Kentucky got the leadoff hitter on was in the sixth, but Katie Reed’s would-be stolen base after her single was erased because she left early and it proved costly.

Bailey Vick and Brooklin Hinz (2 for 3) followed with back-to-back singles, which would have driven in a run had Reed (2 for 3) still been aboard, to bring up UK slugger Abbey Cheek with a chance to do damage and she nearly did, drilling a changeup from Carlson well foul in left.

On a 1-2 count, Carlson threw a pitch low and away to Cheek and the right-hander hit a chopper to Veach, who flipped to Haley Fagan and returned to the bag to complete the rally-killing double play.

The double play got Carlson (26-3), the SEC’s wins leader, out of her toughest jam of the game as she extended her scoreless innings streak to 21.

“You got to see a very mature young lady in the circle,” Auburn coach Clint Myers said. “She gave up some hits. She didn’t change her mentality, she didn’t change her pitches when somebody did get on. We played percentages; we figured if Cheek got up and she hit it on the ground we had a pretty good chance of turning the double play.”

In her last seven starts, all of which have come against SEC teams, Carlson is 7-0 with a 0.79 ERA, allowing eight runs, six earned, on 36 hits and eight walks with 21 strikeouts over 52 2/3 innings.

“I honestly think I pitch better when the game is tighter,” the first team All-SEC selection said, “because I know that I have to be more focused and I cannot (miss).”

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Published at Thu, 11 May 2017 23:45:05 +0000