COLUMBUS, Ga. ---- After a disappointing 3-0 setback to No. 15 Spring Hill, the seventh-ranked Auburn Montgomery softball team staved off elimination in the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament with a 6-0 shutout over No. 17 Brenau.
The Warhawks (41-9) will play in another elimination game against No. 12 Belhaven at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.
AUM, the top seed from the West division, opened play this afternoon against third-seeded Spring Hill. The Badgers took an early lead off of starter Kayla Hale (8-4) in the first inning on a sacrifice fly from Katelyn Hinson.
The Warhawks had what turned out to be their best scoring opportunity against Caroline Sagrera (30-6) in the bottom half of the inning. Rachel Stuart hit a leadoff single, and a throwing error on Emma Johansen's sacrifice gave AUM runners on second and third with nobody out. The Warhawks could not convert, however, and Spring Hill added two more runs in the second on a double from Shea Blanchard.
Sagrera struck out eight and allowed just three base hits in a complete game shutout. Hale allowed three runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings. Taylor Powell limited the damage in relief, allowing just two hits over 5 1/3 innings while striking out six. Stuart had two of AUM's three hits.
Spring Hill advanced to face Lee in the final game of the day, dropping a 5-1 decision to the third-ranked Lady Flames. The Badgers will face the winner of AUM/Belhaven at 11 a.m. tomorrow, with the winner of that contest facing Lee immediately afterwards.
The loss to Spring Hill dropped AUM into the loser's bracket to face the Golden Tigers (34-16). AUM's offense quickly awoke from its early-game slumber, with Katie Spain belting a three-run homer in the first inning. The long ball capped a two-out rally started by hits from Laci Driggers and Jyssica Pepper, and it was Spain's team-leading 14th shot of the season.
The Warhawks added three more runs in the fourth inning. Leslie Kelly continued her strong tournament with a two-run homer to right field, her fourth long ball of the season and her third hit of the tournament. Kelly also drew a pair of walks in the game, reaching base in all three plate appearances.
AUM added its final run later in the inning, with an Emma Johansen RBI single scoring pinch-runner Katie Cornelius after Hale and Stuart had each singled to continue the frame.
After working out of a bases loaded jam in the first, Cassie Daniels (19-3) settled in to shut down the Brenau offense. Daniels struck out eight in her second shutout of the tournament, surrendering five hits and three walks.
Spain led the offense with three RBIs and two runs scored. She is now up to 54 RBIs on the season. Pepper finished 2-for-3 with a run scored, picking up her 17th multi-hit game of the season, which is tied for the team lead.
The Warhawks will now look towards another must-win game against the Blazers. The teams split four matchups during the regular season. Belhaven dropped into the loser's bracket after a 3-2 loss to Lee, and advanced to play AUM with a 3-1 win over Mobile.