Auburn Headed To Minnesota For NCAA Regional

Taking a look at Auburn's opposition in the Minnesota NCAA Women's Softball Tournament Regional to be played Friday-Sunday.

Minneapolis Regional – May 16-18 at Minneapolis, Minnesota
Auburn (39-17-1) vs. North Dakota State (35-16)
No. 16 seed Minnesota* (41-9) vs. Green Bay (27-12)

Auburn (39-17-1)

Auburn has played one of the toughest schedules in the country this season with games against top-seed Oregon, second-seed Alabama and fourth-seed Georgia. With a record of 14-17 against NCAA Tournament teams overall in 2014, it's hard to find a more tested team than this group of Tigers.

In the first season under Coach Clint Myers, Auburn made a strong jump from a disappointing 2013 season to make the NCAA Tournament. Behind one of the top offensive teams in the country, the Tigers should make a strong challenge in Minneapolis.

Leading the charge is the top of the Auburn lineup with Branndi Melero's .411 average and 75 RBI leading the team and the RBI total tops in the nation. Freshman sensation Kasey Cooper has been huge this year, hitting .410 with a team-leading 16 home runs. Throw in leadoff hitter Emily Carasone (.408, 9 HR) and you have much of the reason why Auburn has hit a school record 79 home runs this year.

While the offense has been a big part of things, just as important has been Auburn's defensive play. The Tigers are tied with Florida at the top of the team fielding stats with a .981 fielding percentage this season.

On the mound Lexi Davis (20-10, 2.78 ERA) and Marcy Harper (17-5, 3.74) lead the way on the mound for the Tigers.

Previewing the opposition

North Dakota State (35-16)

Auburn has already faced NDSU this season, defeating the Bison 11-3 in the second game of the season at home. Facing a tough schedule early on a road swing through the South, North Dakota State has been on fire lately with 10 wins in the last 11 games, including the Summit League Tournament title.

A team that has played just 11 games at home this season, NDSU has a potent offensive attack with a team batting average of .313 with 47 home runs. Leading the way is Alex Sobrero (.394, 5 HR). On the mound the Bison have a team ERA of just 2.90 with Krista Menke doing much of the damage in the circle. With a record of 28-7 and an ERA of just 2.08, Menke has been one of the top power pitchers anywhere with 243 strikeouts in 227 innings this season.

Minnesota (41-9)

The Big 10 Tournament Champions, the Golden Gophers have had a very good season on the way to earning a host spot for the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Opening the year by winning the Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge that included wins over LSU and Oklahoma State, Minnesota also has wins over Arizona State, Northwestern, Nebraska and Michigan this year.

Finishing with a 16-6 record in the Big 10, Minnesota is hitting .285 as a team with 63 home runs this season, but on the mound is where the Golden Gophers get the job done. Holding the opposition to a batting average of just .189 with only 16 home runs allowed, Minnesota has allowed just 104 total runs in 50 games. The combination of Sara Moulton (26-6, 1.59) and Sara Groenewegen (13-2, 2.25) give them one of the best pitching duos in the country.

Green Bay (27-12)

The Horizon League Champions, Green Bay has played a much softer schedule than the other three teams in the regional with only four games against BCS conference foes, defeating Connecticut and falling to Purdue and twice to Wisconsin.

The strong point for Green Bay is the depth on the mound with four different pitchers winning games this season. Ashley Nannemann (11-7, 1.94) has been the main person in the circle for Green Bay this year with Heather Sanderson (6-3, 3.23) also contributing six wins as well.

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