Auburn Softball Preview: No. 22 Tigers Host Fourth-Ranked Tennessee
NO. 22 AUBURN VS. NO. 4 TENNESSEE
April 9, 10 * Auburn, Ala. * Jane B. Moore Field
Ranked Clubs Meet For SEC Battle
Twenty-second ranked Auburn heads home to host No. 4 Tennessee for a three-game series Saturday and Sunday at Jane B. Moore Field. The Lady Volunteers, expected to finish in the top two of the SEC East prior to the season, represent the second-highest ranked club the Tigers have faced this season.
Auburn, coming off a series victory over Mississippi State, is 11-11 all-time against the Lady Volunteers, although Tennessee took 2-of-3 from the Tigers last season. The teams are also deadlocked in Auburn, with the Tigers having won four of the last six dating back to the 2001 season.
Tennessee has been dominant in SEC play this season, posting an 11-2 record. The Lady Vols are second in the division to Georgia.
The first 250 fans at Saturday's doubleheader will receive a pack of Auburn trading cards, the third of four sets. Sunday is .50 cent hot dog day.
All three games will air live on the radio. Those in the Auburn area can tune in at WANI-AM (1400). Live stats and a live audio link will also be available on the Internet at www.auburntigers.com.
Things To Note For Auburn Softball
* Auburn has won six of its last seven games after taking 2-of-3 from Mississippi State in Starkville.
* Auburn senior Sara Dean was named the SEC Player of the Week April 4 after going 6-for-14 with two home runs, two triples and five RBI in five games last week. It is the third weekly honor of her career.
* Kristina McCain is on a career-high hit streak after going 7-for-12 against Mississippi State. The sophomore has posted a hit in 26 of her last 29 games and has reached base safely via a hit or walk in all but one game this season.
* Beth DiPietro has yet to lose at Jane B. Moore Field this season. She is 7-0 with a 0.95 ERA in eight appearances at home.
Going 4-1 In Five Games, Taking A Series From Mississippi State Auburn went 4-1 last week against two non-conference opponents and Mississippi State, taking two of three games from the Bulldogs in SEC play.
Sara Dean took SEC Player of the Week honors after going 6-for-14 with five RBI, while Kristina McCain extended her career-high hit streak to 12 games. Beth DiPietro went 3-0 with a save, earning two victories in long relief appearances.
The Tigers defeated Georgia State March 29 at Jane B. Moore Field to start the week, then traveled to Jacksonville, Ala., and won their second game of the week, 7-2, over the Gamecocks. Auburn finished up the week with a series victory over Mississippi State. The Tigers won, 10-2, in the first game of a doubleheader, then, after falling in game two, 4-3, won in comeback fashion in the final contest of the series. Holly Currie's two-out, two-run home run in the seventh inning Sunday clinched the victory and sent the Tigers away from Starkville on a winning note.
Taking The Weekly Honor
Sara Dean was named SEC Player of the Week April 4 after going 6-for-14 with one double, two triples, two home runs, three walks and five RBI in five games. Dean also threw out three of the six runners who attempted a stolen base against her.
It is the third weekly honor of Dean's career. She was also named SEC Player of the Week in 2002 and 2004.
'Wow' Is The Only Way To Describe It
Kristina McCain is on a career-high 12 game hit streak, extending it against Mississippi State with a 7-for-12 effort in three games against the Bulldogs. However, upon further examination, that's not even close to the whole story.
McCain has hit safely in 26 of her last 29 games, also posting two five-game and one four-game hit streaks along the way. The sophomore from Mount Olive, Ala., has reached base in 40 of her 41 games played this year. That includes by hit, walk or hit by pitch. She's gone only eight games this season without a hit, and has filled in the game in seven of those games with a combined seven walks and three hit by pitches.
What A Reliev ... Er
Beth DiPietro went 3-0 with one save in four appearances last week, acting as a reliever in three of those games.
Two of her victories -- against Jacksonville State and Mississippi State -- came in long relief appearances. She worked 6 1/3 innings against the Bulldogs, striking out eight while allowing three hits. She came on in relief of Holly Currie in the first and promptly retired eight of the next 10 batters.
DiPietro has appeared in nine games as a reliever this season, posting a 3-0 record with a 0.34 ERA. She has worked 20 1/3 innings as a reliever, allowing nine hits -- only one of which has been an extra base hit -- as opponents have a .134 batting average. She has struck out 19 batters while walking seven.
McCain, Pt. 2
Entering the week, Kristina McCain has provided the most offense among players at third base this season, batting almost 100 points higher than the next-best batter.
McCain is also high on the SEC offensive leaders list, regardless of position. Her .403 batting average entering the week was eighth-best in the SEC, while her .516 on-base percentage was second. Her 44 runs are second-most in the league, while she has walked a career-high 24 times, which is third.
That's The Best For You
Auburn's 36-10 record through the first 46 games of the season marks the club's-best start to the season, bettering last year's 34-12 record. That club became the second Auburn team to advance to an NCAA Regional.
The team's 10-4 record through SEC play is tied for the best conference start with last season's team, which finished 19-10 in the SEC. The Tigers should have 15 conference games played to this point, but were rained out March 27 against South Carolina at Jane B. Moore Field. It marks the third straight season in which Auburn has had a league game scrapped.
Short, Short And Really Sweet
Auburn mercy-ruled Mississippi State in the first game of the team's three-game series over the weekend. The Tigers have now seen 14 games ended early due to the mercy rule and they are taking advantage of it.
Auburn is 12-2 this season when games are ended before the seventh inning. The team started off by winning its first six shortened games, and has played the last four flawlessly. The Tigers have outscored opponents, 41-7, in their last six shortened games.
Only two clubs -- then-No. 3 Stanford and Iowa -- have been able to enact the mercy rule on Auburn this season.
Welcome To The Coaching Staff
Deese added two new assistants in the offseason, welcoming Jack Byerley and Ashley Moore.
Byerley comes to the Tigers from Francis Marion University in Florence, S.C., where he served as the head coach for two seasons. He amassed a 73-26 record in two seasons at the helm of the program, leading the Patriots to their first ever national ranking in Division II play in 2003. Prior to serving as the head coach at Francis Marion, Byerley spent two seasons as the top assistant at Florida. With the Tigers, he will be responsible for the team's hitters and infielders.
Moore comes to Auburn just two seasons after completing her collegiate eligibility and leaving as one of the most prolific players in team history. In four seasons with the Tigers, Moore broke 15 program records. She became the program's first-ever Second-Team All-American in 2001 after batting .381 with 22 doubles, 11 home runs and 40 runs batted in. She signed a contract with the New England RipTide of the National Pro Fastpitch Softball League in January 2004.
Auburn pitcher Holly Currie had an incredible week (Feb. 9 to 13), throwing Auburn's first ever perfect game while setting a Southeastern Conference record with 10 runs batted in.
Currie began her week by going 4-for-4 with two home runs, two doubles and 10 RBI against Alabama State. The 10 RBI were just one off tying the NCAA record, last equaled in 2003. The Pisgah, Ala., native hit one home run and one double in the first inning against the Hornets, posting six RBI in the frame. That alone tied the Auburn single-game record, set by Mary Petrie in 1999 against Florida.
Think that was all? Not even close. Currie, two days later, became the first pitcher in the history of Auburn softball, and eighth in the SEC, to throw a perfect game as the Tigers shut out the College of Charleston, 9-0. Currie struck out a then-career-high 13 in the victory, just four off tying Auburn's single-game high, set twice last season by Kristen Keyes. Currie, not surprisingly, was named the Most Valuable Pitcher of the Tiger Invitational after going 2-1 with one save.
* Auburn is 8-1 this season following a loss and has just one losing streak -- a two-gamer to then-No. 9 Alabama.
* Sara Dean has at least one hit in every SEC series this season, totaling five. In the past two seasons combined, she has at hit in every SEC series except one -- LSU last season. That's 14-of-15 series.
* Kristina McCain's 12-game hit streak is the seventh-longest in Auburn history. Ashley Moore, now an assistant with the Tigers, hit in 24 straight in 2001. Sara Dean holds the third-longest streak in Auburn history, posting 15 straight last season.
* Auburn has had 10 hit streaks of 10 or more games in nine years.
* Holly Currie is nine RBI away (she has 50) from tying for 10th in the SEC single-season record book. Currie also needs three doubles (she has 17) from breaking into that category.
* Auburn, as a team, needs four home runs to tie the 2001 output (47) for second-most in a single-season. The Tigers would then need one more to tie 2002 (48) for the most in a season.
* Currie has six performances with 10 strikeouts or more this season.
* The Tigers have allowed an opponent 10 or more hits in a game just once this season -- Iowa had 13 at the Buzz Classic on March 6.