The Tigers bats returned to the norm over the weekend, but there were some fielding issues that are somewhat troubling.
Wednesday, Georgia State (8-4, Victory)
Georgia State is a team that, even at home, has no business competing with Auburn on the softball field. Yet, they managed to do just that for five innings Wednesday night in Atlanta. That is thanks in part to Auburn struggling with errors in the early part of the game, which led to 3 runs for the Panthers, but it's still not what you want to see if you're Auburn.
The Tigers started out in the normal way, scoring 3 runs in the 1st inning. If there's one thing Auburn Softball has done extremely well this season, it is outscoring opponents in the 1st. Georgia State tied it in the 2nd before Emily Carosone sent one out of the park in the 3rd. The Panthers knotted the score once against in the 4th, though. It remained tied at 4 until the Top of the 6th where Jade Rhodes led off with a home run, starting a 4 run inning for the Tigers. That was all Makayla Martin, on the mound in relief of starter Marcy Harper, needed for the win.
Friday, South Carolina (10-0, Victory, 5 Innings)
Getting a run-rule victory in Conference play is always a good thing, and Auburn did it Friday night against the visiting Gamecocks. Friday's game was a rare instance of Auburn not scoring in the 1st inning, but that was fixed in the subsequent innings. Auburn picked up their first run in the 2nd, followed by two more in the 3rd. It was the 4th inning that put the nail in the coffin, though.
Someone on Twitter suggested that with the bases loaded and Kasey Cooper at the plate, it's best to just walk her and concede the run. That should say all you need to know about how great Cooper is. South Carolina decided to pitch to her, and she made them pay, hitting a grand slam for her team-leading 10th home run. Shortly after her, Jade Rhodes, not content to be in 2nd place on the team in home runs, went yard on a two-run shot for her 10th of the season.
When South Carolina failed to score in the Top of the 5th, that was all she wrote. Auburn left Jane B Moore Field with the 10-0 4.5 inning victory.
Saturday, South Carolina, Game 1 (5-2, Victory)
Not only was Jade Rhodes not happy with being in 2nd place on the team in home runs, she was unhappy with being tied for first, too. South Carolina did something not many teams have been able to do this year and outscored Auburn 2-0 in the 1st inning to take the early lead. That would be all they got on the day, though, as the Tigers bats slowly built a lead. They were helped by Jade Rhodes' home run in the 2nd inning to cut the deficit in half, then a 2-run third inning, followed by single runs in the 4th and 5th, and Auburn took the series.
On the mound, Rachel Walters pitched 4.1 innings and only gave up the 2 runs in the 1st. She struck out four batters in her time. Mikayla Martin came on in relief for the final 2.2 innings and closed out the game.
Saturday, South Carolina, Game 2 (4-3, Victory)
Game 3 was the closest of the series, although it didn't start out that way. Auburn had a 3-0 lead going into the 4th inning, when a 2-run home run cut the lead. South Carolina followed that with a solo shot in the 5th and the game was tied. Auburn got a run back in the bottom half of the 5th, and that was all Kaylee Carlson, on in relief for Lexi Davis, needed to seal the deal.
There was one point in this game where South Carolina proved me wrong, as the bases were loaded with Kasey Cooper at the plate, and South Carolina managed to get out of the inning. It's a rare case, but it happens.
Auburn's next series will be in Lexington against the 12th ranked Kentucky Wildcats.