After dropping its first two SEC series against LSU and Alabama, Tennessee (35-8, 8-7) won three straight SEC series, and now the Lady Vols will look to pick up their fourth on the road against Auburn (26-16, 6-12).
The No. 18 Lady Vols come into the weekend after a home series against Georgia where they won two of three games. Tennessee was supposed to have a doubleheader on the road against Western Carolina on Tuesday, but those games were cancelled after a mutual decision from both teams.
The Lady Vols were impressive against Georgia, winning games one and two 3-1 and 9-3, respectively, and dropping game three 11-8.
Tennessee’s Ashley Morgan was unstoppable against Georgia, going 8-for-12 at the plate with six RBIs and one home run.
“She had a huge weekend for us against Georgia, which was neat to see because she’s a Georgia native,” co-head coach Karen Weekly said on Morgan. “She’s one of the hardest workers on the team, and I know that’s a bit of cliché, but it’s not just that she works hard, it’s the way she goes about her work. Her work is always smart. It’s not just that she’s putting in time, everything she does is purposeful and intentional.”
Morgan’s work has certainly paid dividends, as the senior infielder has emerged as one of the leading hitters for the Lady Vols with a batting average of .416.
Along with Morgan, catcher Ally Shipman has also stepped up recently for the Lady Vols.
While Shipman’s game doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet, she has been a consistent hitter and made big plays in key moments all season.
“When you look at [Shipman’s] bottom line numbers they don’t look that stellar, but she’s really come on strong the last few weeks,” Weekly said. “Since our Kennesaw State double header she’s like 16-for-40 with 16 RBIs, so you could argue that she’s our hottest hitter the last few weeks. So really that’s why we’ve got her in the cleanup spot.”
Despite the many positives for the Lady Vols recently, they are still struggling with injury, as two of their stronger players, Amanda Ayala and Rylie West, are still battling injury. Ayala remains out, but West will look to return this weekend.
“We’ll get her up to speed as quickly as possible and I think you’ll see her in the lineup this weekend,” Weekly said of West. “We’ve definitely missed her bat, she’s leading our team in average, so that was a big loss when she went down.”
“Amanda Ayala has had a good week of rehab,” Weekly continued. “I think she’s still questionable for this weekend, but that’s a little bit better than doubtful.”
Despite the missing players in recent weeks, the Lady Vols still looked like one of the strongest teams in the SEC.
“Even without our full squad we’re able to win SEC series, so that’s a good thing,” Weekly said. “We’re getting better, we still haven’t played our best softball.”
Contrary to Tennessee, Auburn has been lackluster in SEC play. The Tigers have won just one SEC series over Kentucky, and now they are desperate to pick up another with just two SEC series remaining for them. However, the chances of another SEC series win are not in Auburn’s favor, as it will see two tough opponents in Tennessee and LSU to close out the season.
Game one of the series between Tennessee and Auburn will be Friday night at 6 p.m. ET, and will be broadcasted on SEC Network+.