It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Coach Clint Myers and the Auburn softball Tigers with a hitting slump continuing for much of the regional, but two hard-earned wins over South Alabama were good enough to move the program into a Super Regional for the first time in school history. You can’t say enough about the mental toughness of his team and that showed up in a big way on Sunday.
Many teams would have lost their focus when a teammate gets carted off on a stretcher, as was the case when catcher Carlee Wallace was blasted during a play at the plate, but not this group of Tigers. They recovered and put together their best inning of the entire weekend the next at-bat. That’s the kind of mental toughness and situation that could be just the thing this group needs to take the next step.
For much of the weekend they looked to be tight and almost trying too hard at times to make the big play. After the injury you could see that determination and intensity return. That could be big news for the Tigers as they get ready to face Louisiana-Lafayette beginning Friday at 1 p.m. on Jane B. Moore Field.
Shortstop Haley Fagan celebrates after hitting a double in Sunday's 7-4 win over South Alabama.
Getting the offense going late on Sunday was a big reason why the Tigers won and they will likely have to continue that against the big hitting Ragin' Cajuns. With 111 home runs this season and a 42-10 record, ULL lives and dies by the home run led by Lexie Elkins. She hit her 31st home run of the year in Sunday night’s 9-1 win over Baylor and is the big part of an attack that has power up and down the order. Auburn better have the bats ready to go early on Friday.
Speaking of offense, the baseball Tigers need to find some in a hurry as they get ready to take on Kentucky in the opening game of the SEC Tournament on Tuesday. Last in the league in runs scored in conference games, tied with Tennessee at 120 (4 runs per game), Auburn’s four home runs are 10 behind the next lowest total from Mississippi State.
The good news for Auburn is that the Tigers should be a good fit for games at the Hoover Met because of its expansive size making scoring more difficult to do with long balls during the SEC Tournament. That means pitching and defense step to the forefront, something that has been the bread and butter for the Tigers this season. If Coach Sunny Golloway’s club can play a clean game in the field and not give away outs, it wil have a great shot to advance to Wednesday where top seed LSU waits.
A win over Kentucky would not only put the Tigers in the double-elimination portion of the tournament, but it could be just the thing Auburn needs to cement a place in the NCAA Tournament. For several weeks I have thought 13 SEC wins wasn’t going to be enough to get into a regional, but a victory over Kentucky might be enough with Auburn’s RPI currently No. 23 in the country by both Warren Nolan and Boyd’s World. While the RPI should be enough to earn a spot with a win, a loss on Tuesday would likely kill any shot the Tigers have of playing again this season.
On To Nationals
The softball Tigers were not alone among Auburn teams advancing in postseason play. Coach Nick Clinard's men's golf team rallied on the third and final day of the NCAA Lubbock Regional to earn a spot in the NCAA Championships.
This team has had a lot of success this year and has the potential to do very well at nationals. The Auburn coach can put a lineup on the course featuring five golfers with the ability to shoot low scores.