AU Will Try To Overcome SEC First Game Blues

Auburn, Ala.–-Coming off the best regular season in program history the 18th-ranked Auburn women's softball team heads to Gainesville, Fla., for the SEC Tournament on the campus of the University of Florida.

Seeded third overall, the 47-17 Tigers will be looking for their fourth victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks this season to open the tournament on Thursday.

In all the Tigers have defeated the Gamecocks seven consecutive times and they're hoping that streak continues because it would end a tough streak for the Tigers in the tournament. Just once in six trips to the SEC Tournament has Auburn won the opening round game and that came as a six seed in 1997. This time things could be different as the Tigers come into the tournament as not only the hottest team in the league, but one of the hottest in the country.

Auburn has won 9 of its last 10 games overall with the only loss coming at Kentucky. During the streak the Tigers are hitting .444 as a team with 14 home runs and 49 runs batted in. Leading the way are All-SEC performers Paige Jones, Holly Currie and Sara Dean. During the 10-game run Jones is hitting .484 with five of the home runs and 10 RBI. For the year Jones has set career highs for home runs (13), RBI (44), and doubles (nine). During the streak Auburn swept LSU for the first time in school history.

A star on the rise for the Tigers is sophomore Holly Currie. Outstanding as a freshman, she has followed that up with a superb second season and was recently named as one of 25 finalists for the Amateur Softball Association 2005 USA Collegiate Division I Player of the Year. This season Currie has 15 home runs, the sixth-most in SEC history, and 59 RBI, the 10th best total in league history.

Currie also pitches and has a 12-4 record this season with a 2.18 ERA in 20 appearances. She teams with Beth Pietro to give the Tigers two solid pitchers heading into the postseason.

Dean earned her second-straight All-SEC first-team honor at catcher this season after hitting .379 during conference play. She has started 209 straight games for the Tigers, an Auburn record, with the last 121 coming at catcher.

Auburn has hit a program-record 65 home runs this season, marking the second-most ever by an SEC school. The 1998 Alabama club holds the record with 73 home runs. The record is still well within reach because Auburn is guaranteed at least four more games because of tournament play in both the SEC and NCAA fields.

The Tigers are averaging a little more than one home run per game, and figuring that they will play at least four more games (two in the SEC Tournament and two in a Regional), they are on pace to finish with 69 home runs this season, obliterating the team's old record of 48. The all-time NCAA home run record holder is Arizona, which hit 126 in 69 games during the 2001 season.

Game time for Thursday's opener is 10a.m. CDT, 11 a.m. in Gainesville. The winner of the game takes on the winner of the Alabama-Mississippi State contest later in the day. Georgia is the tournament's top seed while the Crimson Tide is the second seed by virtue of winning the Western Division by one game over Auburn.

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