Tiffany Howard (above) is a senior left fielder for the Tigers.
Auburn, Ala. -- The Auburn Tigers were able to seal the deal on a series sweep over the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday as Coach Clint Myers' team took both contests in a doubleheader winning the first game 5-2 and the second 4-3. The series improved Auburn to 30-4 (6-3 SEC) on the season while South Carolina fell to 24-9 (2-7 SEC).
Both games on Saturday seemed to be a battle of attrition for the Tigers as they were unable to pull away like they did on Friday night winning 10-0 in five innings. Senior left fielder Tiffany Howard, who had three hits, a run and an RBI in the two games, said that those close games will help with the team’s “clutch factor” going forward.
“It means a lot,” said Howard on winning the two games on Saturday and sweeping the series. “Our hard work in practice is definitely showing. We’re actually getting better each game. Just to know that we can (win close games) should build our confidence so that when we do get in those tough games, especially deeper in the season at regionals (and beyond), it will definitely come into play.”
In the first game on Saturday, Auburn went down early after a two-run first inning by the Gamecocks, but Myers’s squad was able to bounce back quickly with five unanswered runs. The Tigers accumulated those runs on seven hits and two walks. Home runs by first baseman Jade Rhodes (leads the team with 11) and shortstop Whitney Jordan helped Auburn regain control.
“Good teams figure out ways to win,” Myers pointed out. “It’s huge. We (gave one up) and we bounced back. Everybody picked each other up. The team is coming together and we’re moving in the right direction.”
The second game was a case of Auburn finding a different way to win. The contest started out in a better way for Auburn. The Tigers scored three runs in the second inning with small ball. The Gamecocks would fight back to tie the game with three runs on two long balls, but in the bottom of the fifth Auburn would take the lead for good with more small ball on an RBI groundout from right fielder Madi Gipson. In the 4-3 victory the team totaled eight hits but not one was an extra base hit.
“The thing that we’ve talked about all season long is the timely hitting,” Myers remarked. “We got people in scoring position and we scored them. Did we miss on a couple? Sure. For the most part I would say we scored more than we left out there.”
Howard was also pleased with the results of Auburn’s batting with runners in scoring positions.
“Me and a few teammates are always out there bunting so to see it put into a game, it means a lot,” said Howard.
No matter what the score was throughout the series the Tigers said they always felt like they were in control of the games. The same might not be true for the South Carolina pitching unit. Jessica Elliott and Nickie Blue, the two pitchers for the Gamecocks, struggled at times over the weekend. On Friday Elliott walked five batters, hit three and committed two errors on throws to first. In the second game of the doubleheader she walked three and hit two more. She seemed to have a hard time finding the strike zone both days.
Blue was having troubles as well in her lengthy duties on Saturday. She threw for eight innings and added up 147 pitches in the two games. She gave up a total of 11 hits, six runs (five earned), four walks and one hits batsman. She was also credited for both of the losses so she started Saturday with a win/loss record of 11-5 and ended it at 11-7.
The Tigers will take the field again next weekend in Lexington when the Kentucky Wildcats play host to them. The first game of the series is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. CDT on Friday.