AUBURN - For the fourth-straight year, the Auburn softball team has given their fellow students at Auburn Public Schools at least two days off from classes.

The Bulldogs are making their fourth trip in school history to the Nebraska School Activities Association State Softball Championships this week. They have a 3-6 record in their previous trips to the Bill Smith Softball Complex in Hastings and have never won a first round game. They have finished 1-2 at state the last three seasons.

Head Coach Grant Cole, in his fifth season with the team, says it all starts with the first game.

"We're able to win in that loser's bracket and then give ourselves a chance to make it to the final day, but we just haven't been able to finish off some of those close games," Cole said. "I'm a big believer in the more you put yourself in those opportunities, the better. We just got to keep grinding and we'll finish the job here."

Last season, Auburn lost to state runner-up Bishop Neumann in the first round, 6-1. They beat Cozad in the consolation bracket, 8-0, before being eliminated by Centennial, 9-4, in the second round of consolations.

The No. 7 Bulldogs (21-6) bring a lot of firepower into their first round matchup with No. 2 Guardian Angels Central Catholic (25-3), and can score runs in bunches. 

Auburn has scored 268 runs this season, have 73 extra base hits (including 36 home runs), 268 RBI's, and a team batting average of .374.

They're led by junior Kylie Allen, who has a batting average of .521, has hit 20 home runs, driven in 55 runs, and scored 41 times. She's also pitched 75.2 innings this season and has an ERA of 2.59 with 11 wins and 73 strikeouts.

Allen has a ton of ability, according to Cole, and she's carrying more confidence in her third season of varsity softball.

"She had got nervous in the past, but now she's been in these moments multiple times, over-and-over," Cole said. "I just think that confidence and belief in herself is making a big difference."

First pitch between the Bulldogs and Bluejays is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Wednesday on Today's Best Country, B103 (103.1 FM, b103.fm). The double-elimination tournament continues through Friday.

No. 7 Auburn vs. No. 2 Guardian Angels Central Catholic

When: 12:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Bill Smith Softball Complex, Hastings

Radio: 103.1 FM, b103.fm

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