March 25, 2014
ATLANTA, Ga. – After a 13-game home stand came to a close last week with a series win over conference foe, Mississippi State, the No. 21 Auburn softball team will hit the road for its next seven games starting with Georgia State on Wednesday in Atlanta, Ga. The game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. CST start at the Heck Softball Complex on Georgia State’s campus.
Coming out winners in 11 of its last 13 games including two-straight series wins to open Southeastern Conference play against LSU and Mississippi State, the Tiger have amassed a 28-5-1 record in 2014. The strong record has garnered national attention as the team is ranked No. 21 in both the NFCA/Coaches’ and ESPN.com/USA Softball polls.
This week marks Auburn’s third-straight week in the NFCA/Coaches’ team rankings, but even with a 2-1 series win over Mississippi State last week, the Tigers stayed at No. 21 this week in both national polls.
Last week, Auburn was ranked No. 21 by both the NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball rankings. However, it sets up nicely for its weekend series with Kentucky who dropped one spot to No. 10 going into this weekend. The Wildcats will be Auburn fourth ranked opponent this season and fifth against a team that has been ranked at some point this season (Florida State, Oregon, LSU, Notre Dame, Kentucky).
Auburn is coming off a 2-1 series win over Mississippi State, its fourth-straight series win over the Bulldogs and second-straight in SEC play. The Tigers were hoping for a three-game sweep after taking games one and two, but fell by a score of 5-2 on Sunday to drop its conference record to 4-2.
Auburn utilized an eight-run fourth inning on Friday and went on to score three more in the contest to win it in six innings by a score of 11-3. As for game two, the Tigers had to come back late, again, scoring all five of their runs in the sixth inning and earning Lexi Davis her second win of the weekend with the 5-2 victory. The series win was Auburn’s fourth-straight over the Bulldogs dating back to 2011.
Davis and sophomore Marcy Harper have continued to dominate the circle for the Tigers, even in the weeks following their three consecutive no-hitters. Davis leads the team in ERA (1.96) and strikeouts 98, but is trailed closely by Harper, who remains undefeated on the year at 13-0 with a 2.92 ERA with 93 strikeouts and only 53 hits given up.
“We won two out of three,” Auburn head coach Clint Myers said. “When you win two out of three, you’re sitting pretty good, but I would have like to see us get that third one. Sweeps in the SEC are as rare as they were in the PAC-12. Any time you can get a sweep, it’s huge. We were just uncharacteristic in the third game. Our defense wasn’t quite as sharp, we made a few errors and we didn’t capitalize on opportunities like we’ve been doing. Consistency is that area that we have to work on.”
The top of Auburn’s lineup consisting of sophomore Emily Carosone, redshirt junior Morgan Estell, freshman Kasey Cooper and junior Branndi Melero has been its offensive strength all year long. As a unit, the top four of the Auburn order have hit .421 with 25 homers and 151 RBI. That means over 50 percent of Auburn’s long balls and 55 percent of its RBI have come from these four players. All but Estell have a batting average currently over .400, while Melero and Cooper both lead the conference in RBI (51 and 49 respectively).
With last weekend’s wins over Mississippi State, Auburn is now currently in the midst of its best start through 34 games in school history. The last time Auburn had a record near its current 28-5-1 record was in 2011 when the team started 28-6 en route to a 40-19 season and an NCAA Regional appearance. This year’s squad is having the third-best season by an Auburn team trailing only the 2011 squad and the 2005 team that went 50-18, winning 21 conference games and hosting the NCAA regional.
Many of Auburn’s wins have come from the result of the big inning. In both of its wins against the Bulldogs, Auburn scored the majority of its runs in one inning, eight coming in the fifth of game one and five coming in the sixth of game two. Coach Myers has been seeing the never give-up attitude in his team all year and believes it will continue as the schedule hits the heart of conference play.
“They’ve proven that all year long and it’s a good trait to have,” Myers said. “We continue to go out and believe in ourselves in that respect. We can go out in any one inning and have a big inning. We know what the formula is. It’s the ability of taking that knowledge and putting it into outcomes and making it happen. Our schedule is going to get a little tougher, so there won’t be as many mistakes made by pitchers. We’re going to have to have a consistent game plan that we’re going to have to execute.”
Auburn’s game with the Panthers of Georgia State is set for a 4 p.m. CST start at the Heck Softball Complex in Atlanta.
The Auburn game can be heard locally on WEGL 91.1 or online at AuburnTigers.com with Brit Bowen on the call. Live stats will also be available on AuburnTigers.com courtesy of GeorgiaStateSports.com.
For more information on Auburn softball, visit AuburnTigers.com, follow the team on Twitter @AuburnTigersSB or follow them on Facebook at Facebook.com/AuburnSB.