After a near perfect first month of the season, a ranked (#22) Auburn Tigers team heads into the weekend for their first conference series of the season. Unblemished at home, in-state rival and the fourth ranked Alabama looks to hand Auburn their first loss at Jane B. Moore Field in 2021. Riding an 11-game winning streak, the Tigers have been led by dominate Freshman pitching performances and clutch hitting. Friday does not mark the end of non-conference play but does the beginning of SEC competition.
The months of February and early March saw Maddie Penta toss two no-hitters marking the first time an Auburn hurler threw two in a season since Marcy Harper in 2014 and Shelby Lowes consecutive scoreless inning streak of 24.1 come to an end. Posting an overall record of 16-1 thus far, the Freshman duo has a combine 12 wins and an ERA bellow one. Making things easier, the Auburn defense has posted a .965 fielding percentage and making plays when they need to be made.
As Head Coach Mickey Dean puts it, “They (Penta and Lowe) really believe in their team behind them”, and it shows on the scorebook. In response to Wednesday’s 3-0 win at Troy, “Shelby was pretty electric in the circle” coming close to a no-hit bid surrendering just two hits in her seven innings of work. The freshman pair have earned three SEC Freshman of the Week awards in the first four weeks of the season.
At the plate, the Tigers are no slouch. Backing up stealer pitching performances with 84 runs in their 17 games (4.94 runs/game), including three players with a batting average over .410. The offense led by Sophomore infielder Lindsey Garcia has found her niche as starting third baseman. In her five non-starts, Garcia could only muster a .167 batting average including a lone RBI. Since filling bigger shoes, she has seen her average jump to .524 in seven starts including 11 hits with two doubles and a homer. It’s Auburn’s best start since 2018, and the highest ranking by USA Today and the coach’s poll since week 11 of the 2019 season.
Friday will mark the first time in program history the Iron Bowl of Softball will meet in the conference opener. The weekend series will be a true test of the Tiger’s hot start facing a Crimson Tide team who has three more wins than the home team. Despite Alabama holding a 19-10 record at Jane B. Moore, the Tigers are 7-3 in the past ten meetings. It will be a most awesome series with two high powered offenses meet two lights out rotations.
“Offensively they (Alabama) kind of remind us of us, with their combination of speed and power. And they don’t beat themselves” Coach Mickey Dean exclaimed after practice on Thursday in preparation for the start of SEC play.
Catch the start of conference play on SEC Network+ or listen to Brit Bowen and JJ Jackson on the Auburn Sports Network with first pitch between the Tigers and Crimson Tide at 5 p.m. CT. Game two of the series is slated for 4 p.m. while Sunday’s finale is scheduled for 2 p.m.