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Auburn softball closes out three-peat in Class 1 finals with mercy-rule shutout of Riverheads

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SALEM — Auburn’s third straight Class 1 title was never in doubt on Saturday afternoon at the Moyer Sports Complex in Salem.

The Eagles won 10-0 by mercy rule over Riverheads on a walk-off single in the fifth inning from second baseman Rachel Brotherton. Brotherton hit a pop-up to shallow left field that allowed Emma Greenhalgh to score from second base.

Auburn’s team rushed out of the dugout to greet Greenhalgh at home plate and kick off their championship celebration.

“We’ve got a tradition here,” Auburn coach Tim Smoot. “When you get on the ride you don’t want to get off, right? This was three in a row, we missed out on a chance in ‘20, but wow. This is the top of the world to have a game like this at the end of the year. Just so proud of them.”

This was the first title as head coach for Smoot, who replaced longtime coach David Hurd last fall. Hurd stepped down to become an assistant principal at Blacksburg Middle School.

Auburn (22-5) got off to a strong start thanks to its ace Kirsten Fleet.

Fleet, who threw a perfect game in the semifinals Friday, struck out the side in the top of the first, then hit an RBI single when the Eagles came up to bat.

Riverheads didn’t hit a ball out of the infield against Fleet (15-1). She only allowed one baserunner — a walk in the third — in five innings. She struck out 11, including the last five batters she faced.

“She’s been in so many big moments, and she handles herself so well,” Smoot said. “She prepares like no one else. She’s a quiet leader on the team and everybody respects her. What more can you ask for?”

The James Madison recruit also had a big day at the plate, going 3 for 3 with three runs and three RBIs. Her two-run homer to left field in the second gave her team an 8-0 lead and blew the game open.

“I had this feeling going up to the plate,” Fleet said. “I looked at the fence and saw it was 200 feet on both the corners, and our field is the same. It was just so exciting coming off the bat.”

Auburn scored three runs in the first, all on two outs, with Hannah Shepherd initially keeping the inning alive with a double. Avery Zuckerwar and Kendra Scaggs extended the lead to 3-0 after Fleet’s hit with RBI singles of their own.

The Eagles kept up the pressure in the second inning by loading the bases with no outs for Shepherd. Shepherd hit a bases-clearing double over the head of the center fielder on a ball that was a couple feet shy of clearing the fence.

Auburn’s lone missed opportunity of the game came in the bottom of the third when it loaded the bases again without any outs. Shepherd grounded into a double play to the shortstop, and Fleet popped out to third to end the inning.

The Eagles finished the game with 10 hits.

“We just played our hearts out,” Fleet said. “There’s a little bit of pressure [as defending champions], but it helps us play a little with more confidence. This is what we work for all year long, so we are comfortable when we get to this stage.”

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