After a 20-2 start to the season that has featured the best pitching staff in the country with a 0.66 ERA, the Tigers' real season begins tonight with the 18-4 and 12th ranked LSU Tigers coming to town for a weekend set.
When you get into the SEC, every game is a trial. Almost any team can win on any given weekend. Just look at the Top 25 in College Softball rankings and you'll understand. 10 of 14 programs are ranked and Arkansas is the next up in "others receiving votes."
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The Tigers of Baton Rouge come to town with a number of options to challenge Auburn aces, Makayla Martin and Kaylee Carlson. Bailey Landry and Sahvanna Jaquish are the two most dangerous, but they are not the only ones. Sydney Springfield leads them with 4 home runs, and 9 Tigers have batting averages over .300.
In the pitching department, LSU - like Auburn - has two primary aces. Sydney Smith and Allie Walljasper are 6-1 and 7-1 this season respectively. Both have ERAs right below or just above the 1.00 mark. Auburn has struggled at times when facing ace pitchers, and these will be two of the best they've seen all year.
For Auburn, after a bit of a slow start to the year, Kasey Cooper is back to her ways of driving runs across the plate. She hasn't done it with as many long balls as last season, but she still leads the team with 25 on the year. Meanwhile, junior catcher Carlee Wallace has been on a hot streak lately and is second with 22 RBIs. The player with the best batting average, though, is Victoria Draper. Draper's speed has been a big help to her as she's able to beat out throws to first on almost any ground ball.
On the mound, Makayla Martin and Kaylee Carlson are near unhittable. When needed, Jenna Abbott can also provide a good arm on the mound while also adding a pretty good bat at the plate, too. Freshman Ashlee Swindle is another good pitcher for the Tigers who is getting a fair bit of excellent experience.
This will be a big test. Have the bats of Auburn truly awoken in the last few weeks? Will they be able to hit LSU's pitching? Can the home crowd pull the Tigers through for a big start to the SEC slate? This weekend will go a long way towards showing us how the rest of the season may go.
If you want to know how big SEC Softball has gotten in recent years, look no further than the fact that this weekend's games will all be televised on the SEC Network in some way. That's pretty awesome.
Game 1: Friday, March 10th, 6:00 pm Central, SEC Network
Game 2: Saturday, March 11th, 7:30 pm Central, SEC Network
Game 3: Sunday, March 12th, 4:00 pm Central, SEC Network