As the 10-1 Tigers get ready to host the Auburn Invitational this weekend, head coach Mickey Dean and his team are not taking their schedule lightly.
"Troy is very talented," Dean told AuburnTigers.com. "They have one of the top pitchers in the country. Last time we played them was two years ago, and it was a close ball game. We expect it to be the same this time. Southern Miss and Southeastern Louisiana are very similar. They're what I like to call 'blue-collar kids.' They're coming to battle."
As they put their record on the line, the team will look to their pitching staff to continue their dominance from the past few weeks.
Freshman Maddie Penta has gotten off to a hot start, throwing 33 innings and only allowing four earned runs. She’s also thrown two no-hitters this season, and has gained a ton of respect from her teammates.
“Madison has been awesome," senior shortstop Makenna Dowell said on Tuesday. “I think we have a really deep pitching staff, and regardless of the hype Madison’s getting, all of the pitchers are going to do really well this year.”
The pitching staff has another star freshman in Carrollton, Alabama, native Shelby Lowe. Lowe, who was one out away from a no-hitter of her own against Murray State, has been just as impressive in the circle so far.
Her WHIP of .78 through 19.1 IP is narrowly better than Penta’s. The difference is made up in her walk rate, as she has only surrendered one free base compared to Penta’s 17.
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Adding to the pitching depth is Samantha Yarbrough, who has struggled through two appearances this season. Yarbrough transferred from South Alabama before the 2020 season, and threw 48.2 innings at an ERA of 1.15 before COVID-19 shut the season down. Her control has been her primary issue this season, surrendering seven walks in only six innings of work.
“Sam has some things we’ve been working on.” Dean said. “And we’ll continue to work on those.”
Rounding out the pitching staff are sophomore KK Dismukes and senior Lexie Handley. Dismukes has appeared in four games this season, all in a bullpen role.
Handley had her first and only start in 2021 in the second game of the Murray State doubleheader. She threw five innings and struck out five in that appearance.
With depth in the circle, Coach Dean says to expect “all of the pitchers” to see time in the coming few weeks.
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