Auburn Softball Preview: No. 18 Tigers Travel To Gainesville For SEC Tournament
No. 18 Auburn at the SEC Tournament
May 12-15 * Gainesville, Fla. * Florida Softball Stadium
Game Notes l Live Audio l Live Stats
Tigers Make Sixth Straight Trip To SEC Tournament Auburn takes on South Carolina in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament Thursday. The Tigers are seeded third in the double elimination tournament.
The Tigers and Gamecocks have met three times this season, with Auburn winning each. The Tigers opened the season against South Carolina, winning 6-4 on March 6 in Marietta, Ga., at the Buzz Classic. Auburn then took a rain-shortened two-game series from the Gamecocks later that month. Auburn has won seven straight meetings over South Carolina.
The winner of the game takes on the winner of the Alabama/Mississippi State game on Friday. The loser will play the loser of the Crimson Tide/Bulldog game.
Catch the games live on the Internet at www.auburntigers.com with Nathan Ealy calling all three. Those in the Auburn area can also listen live on the radio at WANI-AM (1400).
Things To Note For Auburn Softball
* Auburn is 9-1 in its last 10 games and has won 47 overall this season, which is a school record.
* Holly Currie holds the Auburn record with 59 RBI this season, which ties her for 10th-most in conference history. Currie also has 15 home runs this season, two shy of tying the school record of 17 set by Ashley Moore in 2002. Currie's 15 home runs are tied for sixth-most in SEC history.
* Auburn enters the SEC Tournament with its highest ever seed, bettering the 2004 club, which was No. 4. The Tigers have gone 8-12 all-time in the postseason tournament.
* Auburn has won its opening game of the SEC Tournament just once in its previous six trips. That happened in 1997 as the No. 6 seed, defeating Tennessee, 2-0.
* The Tigers lost their first game last season, but went on to win three straight to reach the tournament's final day.
* Sara Dean has started 209 straight games, an Auburn record. Of those 209, 121 straight have come at the catcher position.
Going Up Against South Carolina
The Tigers will meet South Carolina in the first round of the SEC Tournament and it will mark the fourth meeting between the clubs this season.
Auburn has dominated the Gamecocks offensively this season in winning all three of the previous games. The Tigers have outscored South Carolina, 27-14, in the first three games. Auburn won the last game, 11-2, in a mercy-ruled contest.
Auburn, as a team, is batting .416 against the Gamecocks this season. The team has hit six home runs in three games, highlighted by Lolani Alvarez's three. Holly Currie has also hit two round-trippers en route to an .800 batting average. Currie's slugging percentage against South Carolina this season is a gaudy 1.600. The Tigers have posted a .472 on-base percentage against the Gamecocks with a .740 slugging percentage.
Auburn is on a seven-game winning streak against the Gamecocks dating back to last season. The teams met at the 2004 SEC Tournament as well in the second round, with Auburn, as the No. 4 seed, winning over No. 8 South Carolina, 2-0.
9-1 In Their Last 10
Auburn's only blemish in the team's last 10 games came at the hands of Kentucky in a 5-2 loss on April 30. Otherwise, the Tigers have made a near perfect slate in winning nine of their last 10 games.
Paige Jones has been unstoppable as of late. The senior is 15-for-31 (.484) with five home runs and 10 RBI in her last 10 games, leading the Tigers offensively. The club is batting .344 in its last 10, with 14 home runs and 49 RBI. Notable team accomplishments in the last 10 games include Auburn's first-ever sweep of LSU as well as a season-tying seven-game winning streak. The Tigers nearly forced Alabama out of first place in the Western Division of the SEC, but the Crimson Tide clinched on the second-to-last day of the regular season.
The Best Ever
Auburn's best-ever record of 47-14 paved the way for the team's highest-seed in the SEC Tournament: Third.
The Tigers surpassed last season's club, which went 3-2 in the SEC Tournament as the No. 4 seed. The postseason berth is the team's sixth in a row, with Auburn going 8-12 in its previous 20 games. The berth into the SEC Tournament should pave the way for the Tigers' second straight trip to an NCAA Regional -- a program first.
Top Season Ranking
Auburn is ranked 18th in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Collegiate Poll, released May 4. It is the team's best ranking of the season, surpassing the No. 20 Auburn earned on April 13 and April 27 by the NFCA.
Deese Needs Just Five More
Auburn head coach Tina Deese is five victories shy of 300 at Auburn. If she's able to get the five victories this season, she will become just the third active SEC coach with 300 or more victories at their current school. Only Alabama's Pat Murphy and South Carolina's Joyce Compton currently hold that distinction.
Jones Named SEC Player Of The Week
Paige Jones earned her first ever SEC Player of the Week honor on May 2 after going 12-for-21 with four home runs and nine RBI in six games against LSU and Kentucky. She helped lead the Tigers to their first ever sweep of LSU and Auburn to 2-of-3 victories over Kentucky in Lexington.
Playing In May
So far, the Tigers have played just one game in May, which is the second time in three years they played just one regular season game during the month. However, Auburn is guaranteed of at least two more games in the month of May (and two more if an NCAA Regional bid is extended). All-time, the Tigers are 23-36 in the month of May, including a 7-5 mark last season.
Back To A Neutral Field
The SEC Tournament marks Auburn's return to a neutral field, a sight the Tigers have not seen since March 6 at the Buzz Classic in Marietta, Ga. The Tigers are 11-2 at a neutral field this season.
Holly Currie leads the offensive charge, batting .474 with two home runs and six RBI. Paige Jones and Ashley Griffin both have hit three home runs to pace the Tigers, who have connected on 15 round-trippers in 13 games at neutral fields. The team's slugging percentage at those fields is .506.
Auburn pitching has also not missed a beat. The team sports a 2.24 ERA, highlighted by Currie's 0.90 mark with a 5-1 record. Beth DiPietro has gone 6-1 at neutral fields while opponents have batted .220 against her.
Playing In Gainesville
The 2005 SEC Tournament will be held at Florida's Softall Stadium for the first time, and as such, will mark the first neutral site games the Tigers will play in Gainesville. Naturally, though, the Tigers do have a history at the stadium, having played Florida there nine times since entering the SEC in 1997. Auburn is 3-6 in Gainesville against the Gators, with the team's last victory coming March 26, 2002. The Tigers defeated Florida, 3-2.
Could Still Be Broken
Auburn has hit a program-record 65 home runs this season, marking the second-most ever by an SEC school. The 1998 Alabama club holds the record with 73 round-trippers. If the Tigers are able to play deep into the SEC Tournament and an NCAA Regional, they could still reach the record. The Tigers are averaging a little more than one home run per game, and figuring that they will play at least four more games (two in the SEC Tournament and two in a Regional), they are on pace to finish with 69 home runs this season, obliterating the team's old record of 48. The all-time NCAA home run record holder is Arizona, which hit 126 in 69 games during the 2001 season.
Sara Dean currently has a 12-game hit streak, marking the longest of the season for the senior and tying her with Kristina McCain for the team's longest of the season. During that stretch, Dean is batting .400 (16-for-40) with two home runs and six RBI. It is, however, her second-longest career streak. She hit in 15 straight games last season.
Currie Makes The List
Auburn sophomore Holly Currie was named by the Amateur Softball Association April 6 as one of the top 25 finalists for the 2005 USA Softball Collegiate Division I Player of the Year.
Currie is one of five SEC players to make the final 25, and the only Tiger. The list will dwindle from 25 to 10 on May 10, then to three on May 31. The winner of the 2005 award -- the fourth year in a row the award will be handed out -- will be announced during the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, OK.