March 22, 2014
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Jade Rhodes said she was trying to drive the ball through infield to follow the game plan laid out by her coach.
Oops. Rhodes put her best drive-the-ball-through-the-infield swing on a pitch, but instead slammed the ball off the scoreboard for a three-run homer to help Auburn beat Mississippi State 5-2 to give the streaking Tigers another SEC series win. Auburn improved to 28-4-1 overall to gain its best record after 33 games in school history while improving to 4-1 in the SEC.
The Tigers won it in dramatic fashion. Auburn was no-hit through the first five innings before breaking it up in the sixth, scoring first on a fielder's choice RBI by Kasey Cooper, a sacrifice fly by Branndi Melero and Rhodes' homer halfway up the scoreboard.
Auburn has beaten Mississippi State 11-3 and 5-2 in consecutive days and will go for the weekend sweep at 1 p.m. Sunday at Jane B. Moore Field. The Tigers made it this far with two huge innings, scoring six times in the fifth Friday, and scoring five in the sixth Saturday. The Tigers had only three hits Saturday.
Auburn coach Clint Myers liked the big innings, but the stickler for detail didn't care so much for what led up to them.
Saturday, he said, "we had 18 hitters up there before we finally got a ground ball, and that's not a characteristic of us."
Things changed in the sixth. But for Rhodes, it started earlier.
"The most impressive at-bat she had was her 15-, 16-pitch at-bat on a strikeout (in the second inning)," Myers said. "You're talking about somebody who battled. How many times do you see 15, 16 pitches in a softball game?
"Look at where she was at the next two at-bats. She comes up at the right time, knowing, 'this girl can't get me out.' Her confidence went up. She didn't try to hit that ball out. She wanted to put a good swing on it."
Except it did go out.
"It feels great to hit one off the scoreboard every now and then," Rhodes said.
But Rhodes, too, said the game-winning swing began earlier in the game.
"My first at-bat I was very relaxed…eventually she got me," Rhodes said. "But that gave me a great idea of what my next at-bat was because I had seen every pitch she had thrown."
When she did swing, "my approach was just to get the ball through the infield, just to do something for my team."
Marcy Harper allowed two runs in six innings to improve to 13-0. Alison Owen allowed one earned run in six, but fell to 11-7.
Teammates welcome Jade Rhodes home after her big hit put Auburn ahead in the sixth (Emily Ensminger photo)
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Wraiter at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine