Softball Drops Series Against South Carolina
Cat Wofford/Auburn Athletics
After last weekend’s massive series win against Tennessee that put Auburn softball on top of the SEC, the Tigers slipped back to sixth place in the standings. It was a tough weekend for Mickey Dean’s Tigers, specifically the pitchers. Dean’s career has been built on fantastic pitching, especially when he was at James Madison. But no one can plan for injuries. And when Makayla Martin broke her throwing hand a few weeks back, coach Dean was forced to find a new ace.
He’s leaned on the trio of Ashlee Swindle, Chardonnay Harris, and transfer Lexi Handley to fill the void left by Martin. The trio has had their days, for sure. Swindle has carried much of the load after being a cleanup pitcher her first two years. Swindle is a pitch-to-contact pitcher, and when the balls go where the defense is, Auburn wins. But then they have games where defenses tee off on her, and Auburn just doesn’t have the ability to fight back.
Auburn took game one on Friday night with a 5–4 walk-off win. Yet even in the win, cracks were showing for the Tigers as they jumped on South Carolina in the first inning. Taylon Snow and Casey McCrackin scored Auburn’s first two runs due to errors before Alyssa Rivera scored on a Brittany Maresette single.
Kendall Veach continued her home-run ways in the third inning on a 3–1 hitter’s count. That boosts her home run count to 18 on the year, making her a serious threat to reach Auburn’s season mark set by Kasey Cooper. (Jade Rhodes and Cooper combined to set the record multiple times over their great two-year run together.) With a lot of playing time left, Veach needs just three more dingers to tie the record.
However, it wasn’t the long ball that won the game for Auburn. The Tigers allowed the Gamecocks to fight back and tie the game in the last frame. Morgan Podany scored Bree Fornis, who reached third after leading off the inning with a blooper followed by an error in right field.
Although she only pitched one inning, Chardonnay Harris earned the win. Swindle was unable to finish the game for Auburn as the Gamecocks started their hitting ways late in the game. Despite racking up eight strikeouts, Swindle put the game in jeopardy by allowing ten hits and four earned runs. Harris entered the game with the bases loaded and managed to get out of the jam.
Saturday’s game two got out of hand quickly for Auburn as South Carolina jumped on Harris early. The Gamecocks were up 5–0 when Dean went to Handley, but Handley plunked a hitter with two outs before walking three straight hitters. Auburn was down 9–0 at the end of three before eventually being run ruled 10–1 by the Gamecocks. Auburn had just three hits. And being run ruled is something Tiger softball fans have not seen in a very long time.
“We didn’t compete,” said Auburn head coach Mickey Dean. “You can’t just want to compete when you have an opportunity to win a ball game. That’s what life is; you have to go out there and compete.”
Sunday brought a much anticipated rubber match in a statement game. South Carolina was poised to win back-to-back series on the road after its win against Alabama the weekend before. While Auburn hit the ball much better, racking up 11 total hits, it left nine players on the base paths.
South Carolina had 12 hits and stranded 10, but made the most of it when Auburn had three errors. South Carolina scored in four different innings, including three runs in the seventh, to take the series with an 8–4 win. Swindle was hit with another loss after allowing ten of the twelve Gamecock hits.
It seemed that Swindle just didn’t have her best stuff for the rubber match and didn’t vary her speed or mix in her deadly change-up nearly as much. There’s no way of knowing whether that was error on her part or a coaching decision. Harris took over in the fifth and allowed two hits and three runs.
Auburn is now 9–6 in conference play with Florida and Arkansas on the horizon. The Tigers have a mid-week game against Alabama State before traveling to Lexington, Kentucky to take on the Wildcats. First pitch Wednesday will be at 6:00 pm on the SEC Network.