Auburn Looks To Get Back On Winning Track Against Mississippi State
April 1, 2004
AUBURN - The 22nd-ranked Auburn softball team looks to return to its winning ways this weekend when it hosts Mississippi State in a three-game series at Jane B. Moore Field.
The series opener is Friday, April 2 at 6 p.m. and will be followed by a Saturday doubleheader, which starts at 2 p.m. All Auburn home games are free. Each of the three games will be broadcast locally on WAUD 1230-AM and can be heard at www.AuburnTigers.com.
The Tigers (26-7, 8-4 Southeastern Conference) are coming off a tough mid-week series at No. 17 Florida in which they dropped three straight games. The losses followed a successful weekend when Auburn swept three games from No. 15 South Carolina.
"I think (Wednesday's) loss was a very tough one for us," said head coach Tina Deese. "But the attitude of the players after the game has been incredible. They have put the series behind them and started focusing on Mississippi State right away.
"The sign of a good team is being able to overcome things that happen to you during the season. This weekend will show us how good we are."
The Bulldogs (22-18, 4-11) are fresh off a 2-1 weekend at Kentucky. The Bulldogs pulled out Sunday's finale, 6-2, to take the series.
The weekend will feature a battle of strengths as Auburn's pitching meets Mississippi State's hitting. The Tigers are second in the SEC with 1.05 earned run average and first with a 1.42 batting average against. The Bulldogs rank third in the league with a .303 batting average.
"Mississippi State has a very explosive offense," said Deese. "If they get on a roll, they can be deadly. They can score 10 runs on you in a hurry. They have a tremendous player in Iyhia McMichael, who is a
threat every time she steps to the plate. But she's not alone. They have about four kids who are very dangerous."
McMichael leads the offensive charge with a .454 batting average and a conference-best 48 runs scored. She also has 26 stolen bases on 28 attempts.
Kristen Keyes leads the Auburn pitching staff with a 0.77 ERA and 173 strikeouts in just 117.2 innings pitched. However, Keyes took a pair of losses against the Gators and allowed seven runs in eight innings of work.
"We had been so good pitching prior to the Florida series," said Deese. "But I think our players know that we're not always going to throw shutouts and we have to be prepared for when that happens.
"I think we really realized that for the time at Florida. In the SEC, there are always going to be games where it is a slugfest and it comes down to who can outscore who.
Auburn's offense will be led by current SEC Player of the Week Sara Dean, who is hitting .455 on the year. She has 11 hits in her last 18 at bats, including three three-hit games.
Mississippi State owns an 18-7 advantage all time in the series, but Auburn has taken three of the last four.