Auburn Softball Review – Tigers Take Down Tennessee
Kaylee Carlson became the winningest pitcher in Auburn softball history when she pitched a 6-0 shutout of No. 8 Tennessee Sunday (photo: Dakota Sumpter/ Auburn media file)
After five scoreless innings, Tennessee struck first as the 8th ranked Vols took on the 11th ranked Tigers. Aubrey Leach hit a leadoff double to start the fifth inning for the Vols at Jane B. Moore Field. And after a bit of small balling, Leach scored the first run of the game. Up to that point in the contest, Auburn was hitless against Caylan Arnold, who had a single strikeout and just two walks before being pulled for ace Matty Moss. Going into the seventh inning, the Tigers were unable to produce any hits until catcher Courtney Shea’s lead-off homer tied the game. Following the tying run, Moss struck out the next three hitters.
Those who did not watch the game on ESPNU may not know that, despite being a four year starter for the Tigers and typically the spark plug for the offense, Vic Draper had been moved to the bottom of the lineup before being pulled from the game. Despite leading the nation in stolen bases and holding Auburn’s all-time record, the center-field slapper has struggled at the plate in SEC play with a .176 average. She was pulled for Bree Fornis, who has never seen the field save for pinch running duties. It’s been a weird hitting year for the Tigers, especially considering what fans came to expect from a Clint Myers-coached team. Truth be told, Draper should be the least of first year coach Mickey Dean’s hitting woes as she is continually asked to bunt, becoming sacrifice at virtually every at bat, and the few times she gets the call to slap, there is no one on base to at least keep the defense honest.
She isn’t the only player who has been pulled from the line-up. First baseman Justus Perry is hitting .091 in conference play, forcing Dean to move Kendall Veach from the hot corner back to first where she played last season. Replacing her is freshman Makenna Dowel, who has occasionally started at shortstop. Overall, the team is hitting a pitiful .200 in conference play. While Auburn has faced some of the best pitching in the nation, it hasn’t had to play Florida or Oklahoma, ranked just in front of the Tigers’ pitching staff.
Tiger pitching continues to bail out ice-cold bats. Carlson took the hit in game one, despite a fantastic eight-inning outing. In that game Leach scored her second run of the game off another lead-off hit, and the Vols took the game 2-1.
Hits were at an even greater premium on Saturday. After seven hits on Friday night, the Vols managed a single hit off Makayla Martin, who earned her 14th win against Moss with six Ks. After a Taylon Snow single to lead off the fourth inning, Casey McCrackin crushed her team-leading seventh home run. The junior continues to be one of the few offensive bright spots in Auburn’s lineup. That was the extent of Auburn’s offensive output, but it was enough to send the series into a rubber match.
Auburn’s offense woke up in a big way on Sunday as Kaylee Carlson got her 17th win, securing her place as Auburn’s all-time wins leader despite only playing three years on the Plains. She went the distance in the shutout with five K’s, two walks, and just three meaningless hits. Six different players had hits in the contest, which was more hits in a game than the other two combined. Leading the way was Courtney Shea, who had two hits, including a game-sealing double that scored Dowell from first. It was Alyssa Rivera’s three-run moonshot that was the highlight of the evening, even if it wasn’t needed.
Rivera trails McCrackin with six home runs. However, she is among the bottom of the lineup in terms of average and hits because she is constantly trying to hit homers instead of being selective. She leads the team with 23 strike outs, and Kendall Veach trails her with 21. In conference play, she is easily the front runner in K’s with 13; the nearest teammate stands at eight. Despite being the over-all leader in at-bats, Draper is mid-pack in Ks but is finding herself at the bottom of the lineup with Taylon Snow taking over lead-off duties. McCrackin is easily the best hitter in conference play. Her .356 average is nearly 60 points better than the next player.
Auburn earned another critical SEC win and sits at fifth in the conference. The Tigers are 9–6 in the conference with the most wins, but dropping the first four games in conference play is killing Auburn. LSU sits just ahead, and if the status quo is maintained, LSU will stay ahead of the Tigers. Auburn has just three conference series left, and none are against teams ahead of them, so the Tigers will need some help to climb the standings.
The Tigers take on Missouri in Columbia this weekend. Auburn should have no problems taking care of business as Mizzou is the bottom team in the SEC with a 4–1 record. All three games are on the SEC Network Plus. Game one is at 6:30 Central.