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An All-Star awakening

Auburn rallies from 11-4 deficit to beat Red Bluff in Division 2 Tournament opener
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Down 11-4 with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, a handful of Red Bluff supporters were the only noisemakers in the stands at Beggs Field Wednesday evening. An hour later, the home crowd was going ballistic after watching the Auburn Little League Softball Junior All-Stars mount a furious rally to win their first game of the Division 2 Tournament. Haley Tupen roped a two-run double down the left field line to tie the game in the seventh and Jenna Knox knocked in the winning run in the 10th as Auburn pulled out an improbable 12-11 victory. “This team is a dream team that I’ve been waiting for,” Auburn manager Jim Knox said. “It was absolutely awesome. They had errors, they gave up a whole bunch of runs up and then they came back with their bats and made up for it.” Auburn will be back on the field tonight in the semifinals, taking on All-Cities of Manteca at 7:30 p.m. Frustrated by Red Bluff pitcher Krista Rodriguez most of the night, Auburn’s remarkable game-tying rally began with an infield hit by Tupen. Alyssa Chapman and Kailey Gaffney followed with sharp singles. Kassidy Kosmata reached on an error to bring home a run. Knox and Shanna Heller followed with RBI-singles to make it 11-8. Rodriguez got a strikeout for the second out, but Jamie Schlenker singled to re-ignite the rally. Michaela Leonard’s single inched Auburn closer before Tupen returned to the plate for the game-tying double. A once-somber Auburn crowd turned into a party in extra innings thanks to the home team’s relentless play. “They all like each other a lot and that’s unusual,” Knox said. “They had some big defensive plays, the pitching was great — they didn’t buckle under pressure — it was sweet.” Kosmata turned in the defensive play of the game in the top of the 10th. With runners on second and third and one out, Kosmata lunged for a bloop hit to right field and snagged it just before it touched the grass. She then alertly fired the ball to third base for an inning-ending double play. Auburn carried the momentum into the bottom of the inning. A Red Bluff error, a hit by Gaffney, an error on a sacrifice bunt by Kosmata and Knox’s big hit brought in Elia Rivas with the winning run. Early on, Red Bluff’s Rodriguez kept the Auburn bats quiet. She struck out six through the first three innings. Meanwhile Brooke Catty had the stands buzzing after belting her second solo home run in the top of the fourth inning to put the visitors up 2-0. Auburn came back to take a 3-2 lead in the fourth. Brittani Stockwell had an infield single to start the rally, Knox came through with a two-run single and Heller scored Paige Maberry with a groundout. In the fifth, Auburn added a run on Chapman’s RBI-single that scored Leonard.