Makayla Martin (center, above) has had the touch this season with her team-leading 0.71 earned average.
Auburn, Ala.--Although Auburn heads into the third week of the season ranked No. 2 nationally, Coach Clint Myers said his team is far from a well-oiled softball machine.
“We know we have talented people,” Myers said. “We are just not firing on all cylinders. We are getting phenomenal pitching. We are playing pretty good defense. We are just not consistent in the batter’s box yet.”
As a team the Tigers are hitting just .248, down from last season’s average of .317.
In contrast, the pitching has been strong and is the reason the Tigers have a 9-1 record. Auburn’s team earned run average is 1.03 compared to 2.19 last season.
First baseman Kendall Veach is hitting .233 and has four of the team's seven home runs.
The Tigers return to action on Thursday with a 6 p.m. home game vs. North Dakota.
A more challenging test is expected to come this weekend vs. 13th-ranked James Madison, a team that defeated the 3-2 Tigers last February. The Dukes feature All-American pitcher Megan Goode, who is back as a junior. She is 5-0 this season with an 0.41 earned run average.
“She is one of the top pitchers in the country,” Myers said. “She pitches in all the quadrants. She is a nibbler. She has very good control. She doesn’t miss over the center of the plate very often. She will throw pitches four or five inches off the plate to see if you will chase and then move it back four or five inches and now it is on the corner.”
James Madison and Auburn are scheduled to play at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday at Jane B. Moore Field.
Myers noted that his focus this week is getting his team performing at a higher level.
“We are hoping that somebody steps up in the outfield and we hope we get all the people well at second base so there is good competition,” he said, pointing out he has been pleased with Victoria Draper in center field with her team-leading .500 batting average.
“We have four or maybe even five people who can vie for either right field or left field,” the coach said. “Nobody has really jumped up and taken the lead and said, ‘Hey, I am going to be the leftfielder or I am going to be the rightfielder.’ Everybody is staying about the same.
“We told them we are going to give them a chance,” Myers added. “We have got to get some offense out of the outfield. That is going to be huge for us.”
Catcher Carlee Wallace makes a play at home plate. The junior is hitting .360 and has a team-leading 10 runs batted in.
Among the outfielders who have played this season Madi Gipson is batting .273, Alyssa Rivera is at .222, Carmyn Greenwood and Morgan Podany are at .143, Whitney Jordan is hitless in 12 at-bats, Brittany Maresette is and Bree Fornis are also hitless in limited action.
At second base Emily Spain has been filling in for K.K. Crocker, who has a hyper-extended knee, and Casey McCrackin, who missed last week’s games with the flu. McCrackin is cleared to play this week and Crocker is listed as "day-to-day" by the head coach. Another infielder, University of Washington transfer Tannon Snow, is still out with an illness. Myers said he doesn't know when she will be able to return to action.
“ I thought Spain played great defense out there,”? Auburn's coach said of the second baseman. “She was in the right spot every time and she made every play so defensively I thought she was outstanding, but going 1-10 kind of hurts us a little bit. She wasn’t alone. We still aren’t swinging it group-wise.”