Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn softball team will be home for single games on Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturday afternoon as the Tigers look to hold on to their lead in the SEC against an opponent Auburn’s coach said is “a very good team.”
Auburn, 8-1 in the conference and 35-4 overall, will be host to the Tennessee Volunteers, who will arrive at Jane B. Moore Field on a six-game winning streak that has pushed the Vols into a three-way tie for second place in the SEC. Tennessee is 6-3 in the league and 26-7 overall after wrapping up a three-game sweep of Georgia on Monday night when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 7 nationally.
“One thing I can tell you about Tennessee is that they are well coached,” said Clint Myers, who is in his second season directing the Tigers. The Vols are led by Ralph and Karen Weekly. Ralph Weekly is a 1973 graduate of Arizona State where Myers was the head coach prior to taking over at Auburn.
“I have known Karen and Ralph a long time,” Myers said. “Ralph is an ASU alum. In fact, when I was at ASU we honored him for all of his accomplishments being a Hall of Fame coach and everything.”
Myers pointed out that his teams played some “great games” vs. teams coached by the Weeklys. “We have to get these kids ready to play,” he said. “It is not playing Tennessee, it is getting them ready to play softball because there are going to be a few little differences how pitchers pitch, who can run and who might steal, who has a little power, but for the most part we have to play Auburn softball. If we play Auburn softball I think we have a good chance and that is the key.”
The 11th-ranked Volunteers lead the series 33-18 vs. the Tigers and have won the previous nine meetings, but haven’t played Auburn since 2013, which was prior to Myers taking over as head coach. In 2013 the Vols advanced to the College World Series for the sixth time under the direction of the Weeklys.
Auburn has never advanced to the softball World Series and is currently at all-time highs for RPI (third nationally) and poll ranking (seventh).
The Tigers suffered their first league loss of the season on Saturday night at Missouri on a walk-off home run in extra innings, but took two of three games in that series with the offense leading the way.
One of the key players at the plate vs. Missouri, and all season, is second baseman Emily Carosone, who is hitting .467 with 15 home runs, which ties her for the SEC homer run lead with her teammate, first baseman Jade Rhodes.
“Emily has had a great year and has done a great job for us,” said Myers, who noted that he likes her hitting in the two spot in the lineup in front of another slugger, third baseman Kasey Cooper, which discourages opponents from trying to pitch around Carosone.
Carosone was the leadoff hitter last year, a role being handled this season by left fielder Tiffany Howard, who is batting .522, which ranks fourth nationally.
A junior who is also a good fielder, Carosone said she looks forward to the opportunity to play tough competition like the Tigers will see this week from Tennessee. “Me personally, I love the competition and close games. I love that type of pressure.”
She came through in a pressure situation in Auburn’s last game, hitting her fifth grand slam home run of the season, enabling the Tigers to outscore Missouri on Sunday.
Even though Auburn is leading the SEC in almost every hitting category, Carosone said there is room for improvement.
(Assistant coach) Casey Myers has a stat for bases loaded situations and we really haven’t been doing good on that,” she explained. “We need to focus on hitting ground balls to get our runners in with less than two outs. There is always room for improvement whether it is mechanics or just seeing the ball. We want to be good all the way down the lineup and we are.”
As a team the Tigers are hitting .369. Tennessee is swinging the bats well, too, with a .332 batting average with four players who have seven or more home runs.
Clint Myers has seen his team post a 20-0 record in home games this season.
Clint Myers agrees with Carsone that the Tigers need to do a better job of taking advantage of their scoring opportunities even though they have 354 runs, 65 more than Georgia, which is second in that statistic among SEC teams. Tennessee is fifth in runs scored with 249.
A construction crew is putting up temporary bleachers on the first base side of the field that should be ready for use on Thursday. “We are going to be able to have well over 2,000 people here,” said Myers, who added that he believes the people who watch the games will see quality softball.
“They notice,” Myers said of the support his players are getting in home games. “It means a lot to them.”
Game times for the series are 6 p.m. CDT on Thursday and Friday with the finale set for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. The Friday and Saturday games are available for viewing on SEC+ and Saturday's game will be on the SEC Network.
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