Auburn, Ala.--Clint Myers’ second season as Auburn’s softball coach has been a season of firsts.
That was the case again on Sunday night as the Tigers found out that they are a national seed for the NCAA Tournament, something that has never happened with the program. The same is true of winning the SEC Tournament title the Tigers took in a 6-5, extra innings thriller vs. Tennessee on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.
With a 49-9 record Auburn is the No. 4 national seed and will be the host for the four-team Auburn Regional that runs Friday through Sunday at Jane B. Moore Field. The Tigers will take on No. 4 seed Tennessee Tech (32-26), the winners of the Ohio Valley Conference, at 5:30 p.m. CDT on Friday.
South Alabama (38-11), the Sun Belt Tournament champion which is ranked No. 23 nationally, is the No. 2 seed for the Auburn Regional while UT-Chattanooga, a team the Tigers defeated in the regular season, is the No. 3 seed. Those teams will play at 3 p.m. on Friday at Jane B. Moore Field.
With 16 four-team regionals around the country featuring a double-elimination format, the winners of those tournaments advance to the eight super regionals that are head-to-head, best two-out-of-three game matchups. The winner of Louisiana-Lafayette’s regional will face the winner of the Auburn Regional.
“We are excited,” Myers said. “The last 24 hours kind of prove a couple of things that this team believes in itself and can accomplish great things, which they proved winning the SEC title.
“The idea of hosting is awesome,” the coach said. “We get to play on our field in front of our fans, who have been really, really good to us all year long. The girls love playing here and our record has been really good at home (27-3).
“After 10 days in Baton Rouge, it is nice to be home,” added Myers, whose team closed the regular season by winning two of three games on the LSU campus before staying there all week to win three games in the SEC Tournament.
Senior center fielder and team captain, Morgan Estell, said she believes the Tigers got a great draw for the tournament as the No. 4 national seed. "We get to play at home and that is the best part of it," she said. "We play well at home and we have been on that field since August. It is a great, great thing for Auburn and our program."
Estell said the goal for the Tigers since preseason has been to qualify for the College World Series and that has not changed. "This year we are on a mission," she said. "We are not stopping."
The Tigers have never won an NCAA Regional, but came close last year before falling to host Minnesota in the Minneapolis regional championship game.
This weekend's NCAA regional will be just the second for the Tigers at their home park. They were the host in 2005 as a two-seed.
All-SEC third baseman Kasey Cooper is shown in action at the SEC Tournament.
Myers noted he liked the spirit and mental toughness his Tigers showed in their comeback win vs. a hot Tennessee team, which is going into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 8 national seed.
“It was a team effort and the exuberance in what they were doing, the smiles, the cheers and hugging was a great feeling,” Myers said. “What we are trying to teach them here is how to win and (Saturday) night was the first step because they beat a very good Tennessee team who beat a very good Florida team, which is ranked No. 1 in the country.”
Myers called what happened as the “first step” in learning how to win a big tournament game. “If they really like that feeling it’s even going to be better in a regional. It is even going to be better than that in a super regional and, by golly, the best feeling ever is winning that last game (in the College World Series) because nobody else can say, ‘Hey, we won that last game.’ You are the best there is that year, forever.”
Reserved seats for the tournament sold out on Sunday night, but there are still all-session passes available for the bleacher seats or standing room.
The following is the Auburn Regional information page:
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