Auburn Softball Beats Valpo 6-3 in 9 Innings

Auburn, Ala.  --   The Auburn softball team rallied twice in extra

innings to defeat Valparaiso 6-3 in nine innings Sunday in the final game of the War Eagle Classic.

The Tigers improved to 13-6 with the victory and posted a 4-0 record in the tournament. Valparaiso dropped to 12-4 and finished with a

3-1 record in the tournament.

"This was a big win for our team," Auburn head coach Tina Deese said. "We went back and forth in the extra innings, but I'm really proud of the attitude and toughness of this team. Everybody stepped up and did their part."

Angel Bunner (5-1) earned the win in relief. Bunner entered in the seventh inning and went 2.0 innings, allowing two runs, both unearned. Bunner did not allow a hit, walked two, struck out four and had two wild pitches.

Anna Thompson started, was lifted for a reliever and came back to pitch the ninth inning to earn her fourth save of the season.

Thompson threw 7.0 innings in all, 6.0 as starter and 1.0 as closer, and allowed one run, earned, on four hits with 13 strikeouts and two walks.

Tied 3-3 in the ninth, the Tigers put up three runs on four hits. Kelley Smiley brought pinch-runner Katie Colton home with a single to left for a 4-3 lead. Amber Harrison followed two batters later with a two-run single through the right side that scored Smiley and Caitlin Stangl (single) for a 6-3 lead.

In the bottom of the ninth, Thompson entered after Bunner issued a leadoff walk. Thompson wasted no time in striking out the first two batters she faced. Hayley Bridwell, who was placed at second, was then gunned down by catcher Elizabeth Eisterhold attempting to steal third to end the game.

Valpo jumped on top of the Tigers in the bottom of the fourth inning when Kelsey Phalen launched a solo home run over the wall in straight-away center. It gave Valpo a 1-0 lead and was only the second earned run scored off Thompson in the last 53.0 innings.

Trailing 1-0 in the sixth, Harrison hit a fly ball to the wall in center that Sara Strickland dropped. Harrison advanced to second on the play and moved to third on a sac bunt by Kelsey Cartwright.

Eisterhold then laced a ball to right that Bridwell caught, but dropped, allowing Eisterhold to reach. Harrison scored on the play to tie the game at 1-1.

In the bottom of the seventh, Thompson hit Jill Jacobson to open the frame and was pulled for Bunner. Bunner got Bridwell swinging on strike three for the first out. Strickland then hit into a fielder's choice, with Jacobson out at second on the play.

With two outs, Bunner hit Jordan Rutkowski to put runners at second and first but slammed the door on the scoring threat when she fanned Phalen on a swinging strike three.

In the eighth, Stangl was placed at second on the tie breaker rule and moved to third on a sac bunt by Harrison. Cartwright then drilled a single to left that scored Stangl for a 2-1 Auburn lead.

Eisterhold followed with a single to right that moved Cartwright to third, putting runners on the corners with one out. Krista Clyde then lofted a sacrifice fly to left that plated Cartwright to push the Auburn lead to 3-1.

Valpo responded in the bottom of the eighth, plating two runs to tie the game. With two outs and Auburn leading 3-2, the tying run scored when Bridwell swung at strike three, starting catcher Caitlin Schultze dropped the ball and threw to first. Smiley, however, was ruled to have dropped the throw during the play and Bridwell was ruled safe and Jessie Marinec (HBP) scored to tie the game.

Shaleigh Jansen (2-3), the third Valpo pitcher of the game, took the loss after allowing three runs, one earned, on five hits in 1.2 innings of work.