Auburn Softball News and Notes: Tigers Go 3–2 In Mary Nutter Classic
Auburn Softball Coach Micky Dean has his team off to the best start since the 2012 team opened 15-0: tying those Tigers for the best start in school history. (photo:al.com)
Auburn softball headed into the Mary Nutter Softball Classic in Cathedral City, California undefeated on the season. Of course, Auburn hasn’t played a lot of stiff competition and, while the Tigers boasted a 14–0 record, the team didn’t look quite the same as it had under coach Clint Myers.
Hitting, specifically power hitting, hasn’t been the same under new coach Mickey Dean, much of which might be due to Eddy Ketelhut’s inexperience in coaching college players. While he has been involved in fast-pitch softball most of his life, he has only one year’s experience coaching at the college level at the University of Detroit–Mercy in 2013.
Currently, the Tigers are hitting .318 with a total of 13 home runs and 28 extra base hits. That’s 0.68 homers a game and about 2.16 extra base hits per game, and that’s before starting conference play. Last season the Tigers averaged 0.83 homers per game and 2.31 extra base hits per contest while hitting a combined .277 over the course of the year.
Pitching has been extremely good for Auburn, and of course that’s Dean’s strong suit. Hurlers Kaylee Carlson and Maykala Martin are both limiting opponents to a .184 batting average. As most power pitching do, the two have allowed five home runs so far this season, not terrible, but the homers have cost Auburn. Additionally, it’s possible that lefty Chardonnay Harris may supplant Ashlee Swindle, who is giving up a team-leading .273 batting average to opponents. The freshman Harris has been simply phenomenal in the circle.
Over the past weekend Auburn joined Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Oregon State, San Jose State and Long Beach in the California tournament.
Auburn started the classic against 25th ranked Notre Dame, downing the Irish 6–2 with two scores each for leadoff hitter Victoria Draper and shortstop Taylon Snow. Justus Perry, Courtney Shea, and Tannon Snow had RBIs that scored the top two batters in the lineup. Shea and Perry did the damage with doubles.
Auburn dropped its first game of the season to Wisconsin in a 3–2 decision, even though Auburn out hit the Badgers 6–3. After Stephanie Lombardo launched one into the stands to close the gap to 2–1 for Wisconsin, the Badgers took the lead for good thanks to two fielder’s choices and an error on catcher Courtney Shea that allowed two runners to score.
Auburn was unable to get anything going in the last two frames, particularly the seventh, as the final three batters failed to put the ball into play. Draper and Kendall Veach each had two hits in the game but were too spread out in the lineup for the hits to turn into runs. Martin started the game, but Harris took the loss despite allowing only a single hit.
Auburn shut out San Jose State 4–0 with Carlson allowing five hits and six strikeouts. Martin provided one scoreless inning of relief. Shea and Casey McCrackin each had doubles, with Shea getting two RBI’s to lead the team. Alyssa Rivera had a solid three-hit game with one RBI, and the Tigers improved to 16–1.
Auburn then beat Oregon State 10–7 in an offensive shootout. The Beaver’s seven runs were two less than the nine runs allowed all season by the Tigers. The Beavers scattered 11 hits, but it was the damage by the top of the lineup that kept Oregon State in the game. Eight of the 11 hits came from the first four hitters, each of whom had two hits. Despite the fantastic offensive outing for the Beavers, they had five errors that cost them the game.
Kendall Veach led the way for Auburn with three hits and an RBI. McCrackin added another two hits and an RBI while lead-off Draper added two hits and and an RBI. Draper made the Beavers pay by putting immense pressure on the defense play after play, specifically causing rushed throws to first and then scoring on a wild pitch in the first to start the game. She accomplished the feat again later in the fourth. It was bad throws that cost the Beavers, not great Auburn pitching, defense, or hot bats.
Auburn dropped the final game of the weekend in a 6–3 loss to Long Beach State. Long Beach isn’t a bad team, sporting a 12–1 record. Martin allowed five runs in four innings, and the Tigers couldn’t string together hits. Auburn stranded eight players, an astounding number that almost always ensures a loss.
Auburn did mix up the lineup by allowing McKenna Dowell to start at short and Jenna Olszewksi in right. The Tigers had eight strikeouts on the day while the combination of Martin and Swindle only had one. The two allowed nine hits, combined.
The Tigers are back in action in Jane B. Moore Field for the Wilson/DiMarini Classic Friday at 2:00 PM against UNC-Wilmington. Later on, Auburn will take on Western Carolina and Western Illinois.