Heading into the Tucson Regional of the NCAA Tournament, the Auburn Tigers were finding their rhythm once again. After losing 10 of their final 12 regular-season games, Auburn knocked off No. 2 seed Tennessee in the SEC Tournament and became the lowest-seeded team (10) in SEC history to reach the postseason tournament's semifinals. With the wind at their backs, Auburn would face Colorado State, a team in the midst of a record-setting season, in their first game of the Division I Softball Tournament.
Colorado State jumped out to an early lead on starter Chardonnay Harris by hitting two home runs in the first inning. By the second inning, Auburn pitcher Ashlee Swindle (11-8) entered the game and shut down the Rams' offense. The junior, who threw a complete-game shutout against the Volunteers in the SEC Tournament, was brilliant once again, dropping her ERA to 2.96 after not allowing a single earned run.
However, Swindle's night was cut short when she took a scary line drive to the face with one out in the fifth inning. After remaining down on the field for several minutes while Auburn's athletic trainers attended to her, Swindle was helped to her feet and walked off under her own power.
Softball Pitcher Hit By Line Drive
"It's hard to talk about," Auburn head coach Mickey Dean told reporters after the game. "I don't even know if I can, because that's a kid who works so hard and we're not here without her."
In a Facebook post the following Saturday morning, Crystal Godwin updated Ashlee's condition as she escaped without serious injury. Later that day, Ashlee even posted to her personal Twitter account and seemed in good spirits.
"Update on Ashlee... As of early this morning... She passed all of her eye exams. They have given her steroids and pain medication. No fractures just a lot of swelling. All of the doctors stated that she was lucky, we like to say we were blessed that the ball missed her eye socket. God definitely had his hand on Ash. She was in a lot of pain but was released last night. She stated she will be back on the field in 5 days so the girls needed to win. Thanks to everyone for being there for our family. The Auburn girls truly care and love one another and they represent the word 'family'."
-- Crystal Godwin, via Facebook
The hashtag #SwingItForSwindle became Auburn softball team's rallying cry as they continued on the rest of the weekend without her. Auburn would lose, 2-1, to the No. 6 overall seed and NCAA Regional host Arizona Wildcats the following day, then beat CSU again, 8-0, to advance to the regional final for the fifth time in six years.
Arizona proved to be too much as they'd roll Auburn, 12-3, and end the Tigers season in the NCAA softball tournament's first round. It was the second-straight season the University of Auburn hadn't reached the Super Regionals.
This article was originally published May 20, 2019.
UPDATE: Before her senior season in 2020 was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic and spread of COVID-19, Swindle pitched in 16 games for Auburn, posting a 3.65 ERA and 6-4 record. Swindle is the only one of six seniors not expected to return in 2021 after the NCAA granted spring sport athletes added eligibility.
"That begins in June for her, I believe. And the way the job market is right now, I think it's a good decision for her to move on with that," head coach Mickey Dean said, via The Montgomery Advertiser. "We support her in that decision."
Swindle's college career appears over, but she'll always be remembered as one of the toughest Tigers to ever play on The Plains.
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