If it’s been a while since you’ve felt hate run through your veins...CONGRATS, Auburn is coming to Tiger Park for three games and kicking-off SEC play.
LSU vs. Auburn, March 9, 6 p.m., SECN+
LSU vs. Auburn, March 10, 7:30 p.m., SECN
LSU vs. Auburn, March 11, 4 p.m., ESPN2
Auburn comes to Baton Rouge sitting 10th in the coaches poll and 14th in the USA Softball poll. Like the LSU Tigers, the Auburn Tigers haven’t spent a ton of time on the road with their lone trip outside of the home park being a trip to California. On that trip, Auburn suffered its only two losses of the season so far, to Wisconsin and Long Beach State, respectively. The visiting Tigers come to Baton Rouge with promising bats and pitching. Auburn’s pitching staff enters the series with a staff ERA of .78 and 155 strikeouts. Offensively, the Tigers like to get on base and run, ranking third in the SEC in hitting at .335 and first in steals with 64, 21 more than the next closest team.
Players to Watch
Although LSU lost last year’s series to Auburn, the Baton Rouge Tigers actually outscored Auburn over that weekend. In the two games they lost, the pitcher that gave them the most trouble was Carlson. The Auburn ace pitched two complete games surrendering six runs total and striking out nine. Carlson has maintained her status as Auburn’s ace, sporting an ERA of .60 with 63 strikeouts. Last time around, Carlson got the call twice against LSU and there is little reason not to expect the same this weekend.
It was known going into the season the LSU catching situation was going to be up in the air. Through 20 plus games, that is still the case. The starter at the beginning of the season, Michaela Schlatman is hitting .162 on the season. Sydney Loupe and CC Caccamise havent shown much in their limited opportunities. Springfield’s .238/.357/.360 line isn’t exciting but it is still the most promise for the players seeing time behind the plate. Additionally, if Springfield can catch, that would potentially open up playing time at the DP spot for Claire Weinberger or Taryn Antoine. A strong performance from Springfield as catcher this weekend would not only put her in the lead for playing time at the position, it would also give Beth Torina some flexibility in the lineup.
Andrews has been one of the unsung players of the Tigers offensive attack. She is second on the team in hitting and her 19 steals are best on the team, third best in the conference. All that said, the Tigers need a solid weekend from Andrews in the leadoff spot. Like the rest of the Tigers, Andrews struggled in the losses to UCLA and Oregon, going 1-for-5. Andrews responsibility isn’t to carry the Tiger offense this weekend, though it will be key for her to get on base as much as possible. Even if she isn’t swiping bases, Andrews ability to get on base will help the Tigers set up for some potentially big innings with the best bats hitting behind her and with a tough Auburn pitching staff, those opportunities could be limited.
The offense and pitching numbers suggest Auburn should be the favorite this weekend. That might be the end result, but LSU is certainly well positioned to win the series. A reason to be skeptical of Auburn’s success is the scheduling. Auburn certainly has a strong schedule, but Wisconsin and Long Beach State, Auburn’s two losses, are both teams that will likely fill out the bottom of the polls. Oregon and UCLA figure to remain in the top-10, or top-5, for most of the season. Furthermore, LSU put together three solid games against a more veteran Auburn team last year on the road and almost won two of those games. This will still be a tough series. LSU’s power on offense seems to be making its presence felt but last Friday’s 1-0 and 2-0 wins show the team still will have shortages offensively. As is the case when competition gets tough, LSU’s success will come down to the pitching. If Carley Hoover and Allie Walljasper are on point, the Tigers will be well positioned to open SEC play with a multiple wins.