Carlson dazzles again in series clincher

Jay G. Tate, Publisher
Auburn Sports
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Jay G. Tate/AuburnSports.com

AUBURN | Clint Myers has advocated a pitch-to-contact paradigm since his arrival at Auburn.

The results are indisputable: His team has qualified for the Women's College World Series during each of the past two seasons.

Still, Kaylee Carlson appears to have changed Myers' mind. The junior pitcher attacked Ole Miss with unusual aggression Sunday afternoon in Auburn's 3-1, series-clinching win. She struck out six batters in seven innings and bumped her weekend strikeout total to 13 in 14 innings.

"There are certain situations now where we may be deviating from our pitch-to-contact (philosophy)," Myers said Sunday afternoon. "It’s situational. And it’s basically with Kaylee."

The results don't show it — Carlson is 20-1 this season — but the junior's season has been anything but serene. She lost feel for important pitch, her changeup, early last month and struggled to locate it in ways that affected hitters negatively. That development was doubly difficult for Carlson in that her changeup's relative weakness also diluted the effect of her riseball.

Those pitches are complemetary.

Still, Carlson made a breakthrough against Georgia last weekend and began relying on the pitch more. She consolidated progress during a few mid-week bullpens.

Ole Miss couldn't manage Carlson's full array of pitches Sunday. After conceding an early, unearned run during the first inning, the junior allowed only two hits during the final six frames.

"It had just disappeared, I’m not going to lie," Carlson said when asked about her changeup Sunday. "I’ve been working really hard in practice to get it back. Right now, it’s working so I’m trying to not think about it."

Auburn (33-6) fell behind in the first inning, but an RBI triple from third baseman Kasey Cooper equalized and an RBI single from Alyssa Rivera pushed the Tigers ahead 2-1 after one inning.

Cooper nabbed her second RBI of the game with a third-inning single. Carlson handled the rest.

The Sunday win was important after Auburn conceded 10 runs in a Saturday loss. It also provided another boost for Cooper, the 2016 All-American who entered the weekend with a batting average under .300. She went 6-for-9 against Ole Miss with two extra-base hits.

"I think it’s more getting lucky than anything," Cooper said. "It’s better to be confident when you’re hitting than for your mechanics to be great. The week, we really focused on mechanics. That led to my confidence."

Auburn resumes play Wednesday night at home against Georgia State.

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