Auburn Softball Chronicle: Tigers Sweep Mississippi State, Alabama Looms Big
Whitney Jordan started at shortstop for the first two games of the Miss State series (photo: Julie Bennett/al.com)
The Auburn Tigers earned their second sweep of the season Sunday with a 6–3 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs. With only one more series left, Auburn will not match the mark set last year when the Tigers swept four different opponents. However, the softball team will finish with a better regular season record than last year’s National Championship Runner Up squad. The 2015-2016 team entered post-season play with a 42-9 record. This year’s team already has 43 wins against only eight losses.
This time last week, things weren’t looking good for Auburn as three players, including shortstop Haley Fagan and Saturday starter Makayla Martin, were arrested for marijuana possession. The trio was suspended, but as the days went on, it became clear that Coach Clint Myers wasn’t going to boot them from the team, though he initially didn’t set a date for their return either. It was reported late in the week that Fagan had been given a drug test that revealed the senior had no drugs in her system.
Still, Whitney Jordan resumed duties as starting shortstop against the Bulldogs, a role she played all last season before trying to carve out an outfielder role earlier this year. Her dreadful batting foundput her on the bench as Auburn turned to freshmen Alyssa Rivera and Carmyn Greenwood.
While Jordan did record a hit, she committed three errors, a third of Fagan’s year-long mark of nine. Jordan noow has six errors despite playing in spot duty. While she will get an opportunity next season, her year has likely come to a close with Auburn entering the most important series of the season and the postseason on the horizon.
Auburn recorded a Friday night 3-2 win thanks to Victoria Draper, who had two hits and an RBI. Kaylee Carlson picked up a complete game win—her SEC-leading 23rd victory. Although it was a Bulldog home run that scored both of State’s runs, the runner on base was courtesy of one of Jordan’s three errors.
Saturday’s contest was all fireworks for the fifth largest crowd ever at Jane B. Moore field. Auburn found itself on the ropes 1-2 at the bottom of the sixth. A lead-off homer by Casey McCrackin tied the game. KK Crocker and Victoria Draper reached on singles, and State elected to pitch around Kasey Cooper. That put Carlee Wallace at bat with the bases loaded. While one can understand pitching around Cooper, since Wallace could end the game with a single, this raised some eyebrows. But Wallace didn’t end it with a walk-off single. Instead, she reminded the fans of Emily Carosone’s Women’s College World Series game-two winning homer when the small statured catcher blasted a walk-0ff grand slam.
Unfortunately, Wallace’s weekend was cut short when she slid into second for a double in Sunday’s game. While the nature of the injury hasn’t been revealed, the good news is that catcher is one of the few positions with some depth. Pinch hitter Courtney Shea took over duties behind the dish.
That was the lone downer for Sunday’s game as Auburn celebrated Senior Day and honored seniors Haley Fagan, Kasey Cooper, Jenna Abbott, and Sydne Waldrop. Cooper set the all-time SEC mark for RBI’s t 266 when she blasted a two-run shot in the first inning, passing Alabama’s Charlotte Morgan. In addition, the Auburn defense broke a program record by turning its 43rd double play of the year, a mark that leads the nation.
Auburn jumped out early 6–0 in game three. but Makayla Martin was pulled in the sixth after allowing three runs to cross the plate. Carlson finished things off with one inning of work, closing out the Bulldogs 6–3 and earning the sweep.
Auburn travels next to Tuscaloosa to take on the Tide in a series that may define the landscape of both the SEC Tournament and Regional play. The Tigers now sit in third position in the SEC rankings. And the top four seeds get a first-round bye, critical for pitchers considering the number of games played in a short time.
Auburn (15–6) is just a half game ahead of Tennessee (14–6) thanks to a canceled game between the two teams on April 16th. The Vols get the number-two seeded Texas A&M Aggies this weekend at College Station. Auburn is just a half game back of the Aggies.
With Florida already having clinched the top seed, there is no shortage of possibilities for the rest of the field entering the final weekend of the year. Like Florida, Alabama has given Auburn trouble in three-game series as Alabama has won the only series in the Clint Myers era. However, Auburn is batting .500 against the Tide with Myers at the helm. This will be a series to watch, and it kicks off Friday night at 6:00 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter @Best5Zach as I live Tweet the action.