Tigers Advance, Take on LSU in Semifinals
Kendall Veach home run against Kentucky helped propel Tigers into SEC Tourney semi-finals. (photo: Dakota Sumpter/ AU athletics)
Auburn better get the bats going, and quick. They take on an LSU team that got white-hot in yesterday’s matchup against SEC tournament host Tennessee.
The Auburn Tigers took care of business in their first game of the tournament against a very good Kentucky team that beat South Carolina earlier. The win can be contributed to equal parts Kendall Veach and Kaylee Carlson. Veach continues to lead the Tigers in home runs and had a timely two-run shot, her 12th long ball of the year.
In the circle, Carlson continues to turn up the wick on what is already an incredible year. She leads the SEC in the area that matters the most: wins. While she wasn’t picked for any All-SEC honors, the young pitcher has a 1.13 ERA to go with her 26–3 record.
Carlson shut out Kentucky on 88 pitches, allowing six scattered hits in a complete-game effort, and great defense backed her up. With the low pitch count she will likely be ready to come in relief today against LSU.
At the plate, the Tigers had just three hits. That could be trouble against an LSU team that broke out against the Vols in the fifth.
Tennessee was leading LSU 2-0 when the purple Tigers pieced together enough offense to tie the game. Then the wheels came off the Vol’s bus. After the Vols relieved ace Maddy Mos, LSU put ball after ball into play. By the time she reentered, LSU had scored four runs, three earned. LSU had nine hits on the day.
While the 6–2 score looks like an easy win, to be fair the Tennessee coaches made two questionable decisions that cost them dearly. First, they started their backup catcher, who had one passed ball and struggled with LSU’s speed on the bases. Two, they pulled Moss after she had a small rough patch. By the time she reentered the game, it was out of hand, and LSU advanced to take on Auburn.
While Auburn’s matchup against Kentucky was the first of the year, Auburn and LSU met earlier. LSU outhit Auburn 24–15 at Jane B. Moore Field, but Auburn won the series in game three. Both Auburn wins were by 5–4 scores. LSU run-ruled Auburn in game two, the only such game for Auburn in 2017.
That run-rule loss came with Makayla Martin in the circle before she was relieved by Ashlee Swindle. This presents an interesting scenario for coach Clint Myers given Carlson’s low pitch count against Kentucky and LSU’s ability to hit Martin. While “win now” is paramount, some thought must be given to a possible finals game. The winner of the Ole Miss vs Alabama game will meet the winner of the Auburn vs LSU match, and if the Tigers beat LSU they will know their opponent 24 hours before taking the field.
Myers will probably roll with Martin, but Makayla will likely have a very quick leash. The pressure isn’t just on Auburn’s pitching but on its bats as well. Auburn is hitting .228 in conference play, nearly 20 points worse than the opposition. The Tigers have five hitters swinging with a .270 average or better in conference play, but the bottom half of the lineup does not have a consistent hitter, including home-run hitter Kendall Veach, at just .208.
Fans will need to pay particular attention to frequent designated player and occasional hitter Courtney Shea. She typically bats in the six or seven hole for Auburn, a critical spot in the lineup. Shea is hitting .148 with only eight hits in conference play, including two doubles and no home runs. In the LSU series, she was pulled from the lineup in the rubber match after being held to one hit in the first two games. She is way overdue to have a big game.
Auburn will keep a keen eye on LSU’s third baseman, Bailey Landry, who is hitting at a .441 clip for the year. She has 10 doubles and seven triples on the season, which leads the team. She had three hits, an RBI, and scored two runs against the Vols. The lefty senior may not be the home-run threat on the team, but she seems to the best player to pitch around.
Auburn and LSU kick things off this afternoon at 4:00 PM on the SEC Network.