No. 17 Auburn (29-6, 7-5 SEC) hits the road to face No. 9 Arkansas (25-7, 6-3 SEC) for its third consecutive top-25 SEC series starting on Friday in Fayetteville.
After a mid-week matchup with Georgia State was postponed due to adverse weather, the Tigers last saw action in a series loss to No. 6 Florida last weekend. Auburn took game one but dropped games two and three to lose its second consecutive conference series after winning its first two.
Home runs aside, several things led to this series loss. Auburn is hitting the long ball frequently, but leaving runners on base and not being able to come up with timely hits was costly. The Tigers left 14 runners on base over the course of the weekend, with six of them in the game three loss.
On Tuesday, Arkansas won its mid-week matchup against Central Arkansas by a final score of 6-4. The Razorbacks have won all of their conference series by a split of 2-1, including series wins over No. 14 Tennessee, No. 22 LSU and, most recently, Ole Miss.
After dropping the first game to Ole Miss last weekend, Arkansas outscored the Rebels 14-3 in the final two games of the series to continue its perfect series win streak.
Here are some players to watch and keys to victory for both teams.
Players to Watch
Makayla Packer (CF)
The sophomore is finally finding a consistent bat in conference play. Over the weekend, Packer went 4-for-9 with two singles, a triple and a home run as well as collecting a walk and three RBIs.
As the leadoff hitter for the Tigers, Packer needs to stay hot with her second-best team average to get runners on early for Auburn against Arkansas.
Carlee McCondichie (2B, OF)
After starting the season in left field, the junior has taken over for an injured Denver Bryant at second base for the foreseeable future.
With a team-leading batting average of .431, McCondichie has been huge in the nine spot for Auburn. Going 3-for-7 over the previous weekend with three singles and an RBI, it is crucial for her to reach base in order to turn it over to the top of the lineup against Arkansas.
Mary Haff (RHP)
The senior proved to be huge for the Razorbacks in the last two games of the series versus Ole Miss. Pitching two complete games, both for wins, don’t be surprised if Auburn faces the veteran in the circle sometime this weekend, perhaps even on Friday.
She collected 18 strikeouts and only allowed one walk in her dazzling performance against Ole Miss. She leads the team with a 2.81 ERA and has 11 wins on the season.
Danielle Gibson (IF)
A sophomore who went 5-for-15 over the last four games, she is a major offensive threat that the Auburn pitchers will be looking to shut down. Leading the team with a .474 batting average, she is also second in the SEC with 13 home runs.
Keys to Victory
Overall, these teams are pretty similar in that they have a primary pitcher and are hitting many home runs. Auburn is second in the SEC with 58 team home runs, and Arkansas is right behind them with 57.
However, this Arkansas team is pretty seasoned compared to the youngest roster in the SEC in Auburn. The Razorbacks have five fifth-year seniors in the starting lineup as opposed to just one Auburn senior.
For the Tigers, they will need to capitalize on getting runners in scoring position and provide run support by means other than home runs.
Auburn also needs both Shelby Lowe and Maddie Penta to arrive ready to pitch this weekend. Penta has shouldered most of the burden for Auburn this season while Lowe is still warming up to conference competition.
Arkansas needs to dominate in the circle against this power-hitting Auburn team. Limiting walks to the bottom of the lineup that score on home runs will be key.
The Razorbacks need to continue to consistently hit good pitching to get the win over Auburn.
The first game between the Tigers and the Razorbacks on Friday will begin at 6 p.m. CST, and games two and three will start at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday in Fayetteville. The broadcast will be streamed on SEC Network-plus.
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