AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn softball has developed a reputation under Clint Myers for games featuring big numbers on the scoreboard. But this weekend, the Tigers could be in store for an old-fashioned pitchers duel — for three straight days.
The No. 4 Auburn softball team (27-3, 2-1 SEC) will take on No. 2 Florida (27-1, 5-0 SEC) in a nationally televised SEC series for two schools eyeing another deep trip to the Women’s College World Series. Judging by the quality of the pitching staffs, tight contests should be in the forecast for Gainesville.
“They’ve got talented athletes. They’re well-coached,” Auburn coach Clint Myers said. “Everybody says they’ve got the best pitching staff in the country. I’m not sure about that, but that’s why we play the games. We’ve played them tough in the past.”
Florida’s pitching staff leads the nation in team ERA at a microscopic 0.54. But both of the Tigers’ starting pitchers — Kaylee Carlson and Makayla Martin — have sub-1.00 ERAs of their own.
Carlson is coming off a masterful performance in which she threw the program’s second-ever perfect game in an 8-0 win over Ohio State. The junior is a perfect 15-0 on the season and is projected to face the Gators twice this weekend.
“We’re going to have to go out there and work really hard,” Carlson said. “Hopefully our team comes out and gets on them early. If not, if it’s a pitcher’s duel. Hopefully we come out on top.”
Both pitching staffs will face some serious firepower, though. Florida has outscored its opponents 50-1 in its last five games. Auburn currently ranks inside the top three in the SEC in runs (201), RBI (181), doubles (43) and home runs (31).
In their last meeting, the Tigers knocked the Gators out of the 2016 SEC Tournament with a 2-1 semifinal win. If Auburn wins the road series against the higher-ranked Gators, it will be the first time its accomplished that feat since 2005.
“Having a series with Florida is always fun,” Auburn third baseman Kasey Cooper said. “It gives us postseason experience right off the bat. We’re looking forward to the competition, because we have two great pitching staffs. It’s going to be a challenge. … It’s going to be intense.”
Auburn and Florida are the two highest-ranked teams in the NFCA Coaches Poll, and the series will receive its due national spotlight. The Friday and Saturday matchups will be televised on ESPN2, with the finale on Monday coming on the SEC Network.
Each of the last 10 meetings between the two SEC powers have been decided by three runs or fewer. Auburn enters the weekend on a two-game winning streak against Florida after seven straight losses in the series.
“Of all the teams in the SEC, when we get together, there are always exciting things happening,” Myers said. “If you look at history, the games that we’ve played with them, they’ve been games that have been good for the fans to watch. Well-played games, for sure.”
Projected Auburn softball lineup vs. Florida
Projected Auburn starting pitchers vs. Florida
- Kaylee Carlson, junior (15-0, 0.93 ERA, 58 K, 19 BB and .186 opposing batting average)
- Makayla Martin, sophomore (12-3, 0.98 ERA, 71 K, 23 BB and .182 opposing batting average)
Auburn softball vs. Florida game time, TV, how to watch online
Game 1 (Saturday): 6 p.m. ET/5 p.m. CT (ESPN2)
Game 2 (Sunday): 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT (ESPN2)
Game 3 (Monday): 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Location: Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium; Gainesville, Fla.
How to watch online: ESPN 2 and SEC Network on WatchESPN
Broadcast team: Mark Neely (play-by-play), Michele Smith and Amanda Scarborough (analyst)
Live stats: Stat Broadcast
Radio: Locally 95.5 FM; online at AuburnTigers.com