Off-field issues failed to derail the Tigers once again as they took yet another SEC series on the road against South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks may be the worst team in the SEC, but they still may make a Regional. That's how strong the conference is, overall.
Game 1: Auburn 2-0
No Haley Fagan? No problem in Friday night's game. Of course, with Kaylee Carlson - the SEC's leading pitcher in number of wins - on the mound, you don't need much in the way of run production, do you?
Carlson went the distance - which is huge with only Jenna Abbott and Ashlee Swindle to back her up. She only allowed 4 hits, walked no one, and struck out 3 in her outing.
At the plate, Auburn got on the board early in the 1st thanks to a Victoria Draper single, stolen base, and then a Carlee Wallace hit to the pitcher that resulted in an errant throw attempting to catch Draper who then scored. The second run was on a Kasey Cooper double that also scored Draper.
It was a big start to a weekend that was going to be a bit tough from the outset after the recent suspensions. The big question would come Saturday without Makayla Martin on the mound.
Game 2: Auburn 2-0
Ashlee Swindle got her first SEC start against the Gamecocks in Game 2, and boy did she deliver. Swindle pitched 6 scoreless innings before surrendering the game to Kaylee Carlson in the 6th to close it out. She pitched a masterful game, throwing only 63 pitches, allowing 2 hits and striking out 2 batters while allowing no runs. Carlson finished the game off for her.
Swindle's performance was fantastic, but Auburn's performance at the plate was less than stellar. The Tigers left a considerable number of runners stranded - many of them in scoring position - throughout the game. The final innings were a bit stressful at times, but they shouldn't have been if the Tigers had just plated a few of those stranded runners.
The first run of the night came on a bases-loaded walk in the 1st inning. The second was a Kendall Veach home run - her 11th of the season - to reach the 2-0 margin.
Game 3: 0-3 South Carolina
Auburn's batters struggled mightily in Sunday's final game of the series as the Tigers could only get three runners on base in the whole game. A 3-run inning for South Carolina thanks to some defensive issues and an errant pitch by Kaylee Carlson were all the Gamecocks needed to take this one.
It's a troubling trend of Auburn that there are games where they leave everyone in scoring position and there are games were they can't get anyone on base in the first place. Still, a series win is a series win. Carlson was also on her third day of pitching in some form since she threw 2 innings to finish off last night.
It's disappointing that Auburn didn't get the sweep, but they're still in a good spot in the postseason race as the season is starting to wind to a close.
The Way Forward
I was really thinking a sweep could/should be in order for the weekend after Ashlee Swindle picked up the Saturday win. It's disappointing that Kaylee Carlson couldn't get the run support Sunday afternoon to pick up the win.
Phillip Marshall - in a pay-walled article, unfortunately - pointed out something very poignant, though. Runs are hard to come by in the SEC this season for almost every team. Auburn is still in the top 3rd in almost every offensive category even as we wonder why they aren't hitting as well as they were over the last two seasons.
Auburn will play Alabama State in Montgomery Wednesday night before taking on a tough Mississippi State squad in Auburn next weekend in the final home series of the year. All that's left is the MSU series and a road series at Alabama before the SEC Tournament begins. Hopefully, we'll get Makayla Martin and Haley Fagan back, soon. With Martin - and a possibly more confident and strong option in Swindle after this weekend - Auburn's pitching could definitely be in a great spot headed to the postseason.