GULF SHORES, Ala. -------The Auburn University at Montgomery softball team had its historic season come to an end on the opening day of bracket play, falling to No. 3 Oklahoma City University, 4-1, in the final game of the day at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex.
"This was such an emotional day and a great end to an amazing season," head coach Chris Steiner-Wilcoxson. "I am so proud of the way we finished this season and the way we came together at the end. I am happy for the seniors, who made a lasting impact on our program and did something this year that they will be able to take with them forever. It was good for our program to see what it takes to be one of the top teams in the country, and to know that they are one of those top teams."
The Warhawks fell in their opening game of the day to Southern States Athletic Conference foe Brenau, 4-0, before winning the first of two elimination games, 2-1, in nine innings against Indiana Southeast on a walk-off home run by Shea Driggers.
Facing a must win, the Warhawks still struggled to get their offense on track after posting just two hits in the opening game of the day against the Golden Tigers.
AUM was able to get on the board in the third inning, when Brandi Richards came in to score on a RBI single by Katie Spain.
Dominant for the first 6 2/3 innings in the circle, Richards ran into trouble trying to seal the victory, as she allowed three consecutive singles, the final of which plated the tying run in the form of pinch runner Blaire Homberger.
After going quietly in the eighth inning and Richards popping up to foul territory to lead off the ninth, Driggers connected on her fifth home run, a game-winning solo shot off Grenadiers' starter Kayla Duke, to keep the Warhawks season alive.
Richards scattered seven hits in the outing, five of which came in the final three frames. The senior struck out 13 and walked just one, while allowing the one run.
For the game, AUM was outhit, 7-6, with Spain leading the team with two hits, including a triple. Katie Jelinek and Meghan McRae paced Indiana Southeast with two hits each.
Duke (16-8) took the loss, allowing two runs in 8 1/3 innings.
In the opener, the Warhawks were unable to solve Brenau's Jenny Shepherd, as she scattered just a pair of hits and worked around six walks, in the shutout victory.
AUM proved to be its own worst enemy, as two errors and a passed ball allowed three of the four runs to come in unearned. Brenau pushed across two runs in the bottom of the first and another in the second to put the game out of reach.
The Warhawks connected on just two hits, doubles by Driggers and Danielle Kirkpatrick in the outing. AUM put together its best scoring threat in the second inning, as Shepherd walked Kirkpatrick and Kacie Ryal to lead off the frame. However, after a sacrifice bunt moved each runner up a bag, Shepherd forced a pop up by Jyssica Pepper and struck out Laci Driggers to escape the jam.
Richards took the loss, allowing three runs and four hits, while striking out five.
In the final game of the day, the Warhawks faced a steep challenge in the third ranked Stars, who are now 45-19, but 15 of the 19 losses came via forfeiture.
AUM fell behind 1-0 after the top of the first inning, as the Stars pushed across an unearned run. After OCU added two runs in the sixth inning and following a more than two hour weather delay, the Warhawks pulled within two runs with a run of their own. Driggers roped a single through the right side, advancing Richards up two bases from first. However, on the play Stars' right fielder Jamie Rateliff threw the ball over the third baseman's head, allowing Richards to score.
Cassie Daniels (13-8) took the loss, tossing a complete game and allowing eight hits. The freshman struck out six and allowed three earned runs.
Lily LaVelle (41-4) finished with two hits, while striking out 10 in the circle during a complete game. She allowed just two hits, one by Driggers and one by Haley Johnson.
With the loss, AUM's season comes to an end with a school-record 42 victories and its first appearance in the NAIA National Tournament. The Warhawks finished the tournament 4-2 and won Pool H in pool play.