Tigers Take Series from Gamecocks Despite Uninspiring Offense (An Auburn Softball Review)
Ashlee Swindle had a breakout performance against South Carolina (photo: Dakota Sumpter/ AU athletics)
Auburn softball fans were anxious to see how suspended starters Haley Fagan and Makayla Martin would be replaced when the Tigers traveled to Columbia, SC to play the Gamecocks over the weekend. Some dropoff in production in both the field and at the plate were expected, especially from Fagan’s replacement.
We thought an infield shift might occur by moving Kasey Cooper to shortstop and Kendall Veach to third, freeing up first for occasional starter, Jenna Abbott. However, that didn’t happen. Instead, coach Clint Myers rolled with last year’s starting shortstop, Whitney Jordan.
Jordan was excellent for the Tigers last year in the field despite being a poor producer at the plate. She was a key player in the Women’s College World Series Finals. However, when Haley Fagan returned from injury this year, Jordan was moved to the outfield.
Since that move her batting has been nothing short of dismal. She entered the weekend series in Columbia hitting .127, and for that reason we expected Coach Myers to go another direction in the infield.
The Athens, Alabama native didn’t record a hit in the series and reached base only once, courtesy of a walk. She is now hitting .103 with 4 RBIs in 39 at-bats. In her first start at shortstop this year, she was less than perfect in the field, committing two errors, one of which contributed to the loss in game three.
However, it wasn’t all on Jordan …
Fans commented on Twitter that the series against the 28–20 Gamecocks was one of the most “uninspiring” performances of the Myers era. Indeed, the Tigers committed five errors and could score only a measly four runs the entire weekend—a real change up for Auburn.
The usual suspects did the most damage for the Tigers. Victoria Draper reached base for the fifth consecutive game while Cooper, Veach, and freshman phenom Alyssa Rivera added critical hits to win the series.
The saving grace was the pitching by another freshman who, until Saturday, has struggled. Despite having been hit hard in limited action, Ashlee Swindle got the start in game two and did her best to fill the vacancy left by Makayla Martin, Auburn’s regular Saturday starter. The freshman pitched a shutout while allowing just two hits on no walks and two strikeouts. It was an outstanding performance, but the question remains: can she keep up the progress? Even in winning, Auburn ace Kaylee Carlson had to spell her for a little over an inning in relief.
The expectations for this Auburn club were sky high before the suspensions, and the Tigers were right on track to repeat the previous two years’ runs to the SEC Championship. And those Tigers played their best ball just before the SEC Tournament.
However, this year the Tigers will be searching for an identity with the loss of two critical starters. Senior Haley Fagan has been big in the field and at the plate, but more so, she is Auburn’s emotional spark plug. Additionally, in the tournament, Auburn will have to pitch someone other than Carlson at some point against elite teams.
Was the loss in Columbia against one of the bottom dwellers in the SEC meaningful? We won’t know the answer until game two of the Alabama series in Tuscaloosa the weekend of May 5, when Martin’s pitching would be needed.
Most importantly, Auburn cannot afford to slip any further in the SEC rankings as the top four seeds receive byes in the league tournament. With Auburn sitting in fourth place and Alabama in fifth and just two games back, the series in Tuscaloosa looms large.