Coach Clint Myers wants to take his team back to Oklahoma City for the College World Series.
Auburn, Ala.--A two-time All-American, it didn’t take Kasey Cooper long to show her skills in Auburn’s intrasquad softball scrimmage on Saturday when the third baseman hammered a home run over the right center field wall in her first plate appearance.
The junior from Dothan, a key player in Auburn’s run to the College World Series last year, said, “I thought we looked pretty good out here. We are trying to focus in on the little details right now.
“Ultimately, we want to play our best ball the last few weeks of the season so right now we are trying to refine our skills, refine our approaches and play Auburn softball,” said Cooper, who hit 18 home runs last year while performing admirably in the field.
Coach Clint Myers, whose team posted a school-best record of 56-11 last year in his second season at Auburn, put the Tigers through a three-hour workout that including a scrimmage that focused on special situations. His team is ranked fourth nationally in the coaches preseason Top 25.
Whitney Jordan jumps in the air, a defensive technique the Tigers use on every pitch. Jordan, a sophomore, is making a push to be the opening day starter at shortstop.
One of the big differences from 2015 to 2016 for the Tigers is the addition of two new pitchers–Kaylee Carlson, a sophomore transfer from North Carolina, and freshman Makayla Martin. They join last year’s staff aces, Lexi Davis and Rachael Walters, along with fellow senior Marcy Harper.
“Lexi struggled a little bit today, but Marcy was rock on,” Myers said. “Kaylee was probably the best I?have seen her and Makayla only threw four pitches in one inning. You have those and Rachael has the tying run at the plate and comes in and closes the door.
“I think the way Corey (assistant coach Corey Myers) is planning to use the pitchers you are going to see a staff,” Myers said. “You are going to see left-handers come in to pitch against left-handers because Rachel is tough on them, especially when she has got that curve ball.”
Myers noted he likes Carlson’s fastball and Martin’s drop. “Makayla is just nasty down and she has a good change,” he pointed out.
The Tigers only lost two starters from last year’s SEC Tournament Championship team. They must replace Morgan Estell in center field and Branndi Melero in right field.
In Saturday’s scrimmage Victoria Draper threw out to runners with her arm. Myers said he likes what he is seeing from Draper. “She is a little faster than Morgan and probably throws a le better.”
Myers noted that Draper doesn’t have much game experience, but added, “She has just got to play. I think she is going to be a great asset. On the bases she is dynamic and she is the fastest kid we have. Boy, she can really scoot.”
In right field Madi Gipson, who moved from first base, is a strong candidate to start. “Madi Gipson has come on in right field and is hitting,” said Myers, who noted that a pair of freshmen, Morgan Podany and Bree Fornis are also in the mix for playing time in the outfield. Podany hit a home run as the leadoff batter in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Morgan Podany prepares to hit against Kaylee Carlson in Saturday's scrimmage.
At shortstop where starter Haley Fagan and her backup Kelsey Bogaards are out until later in the season with knee injuries, sophomore Whitney Jordan is the favorite to open the season as the starter ahead of freshman Casey McCrackin.
“It definitely helps having two All-Americans on your sides,” Jordan said of playing between Cooper at third base and two-time All-American Emily Carosone, a senior at second base. “If I am in the wrong spot they tell me,” she said.
The Tigers will open season on Feb. 11 with a home game vs. Appalachian State. “I think we are more than ready,” Jordan said. “I think we have worked hard. I think we have out-worked everyone.”
New box seats have been added on the third base side (above) as well as new bleacher sets. New box seats and more temporary bleachers are installed on the first base side of Jane B. Moore Field.
Myers said the Tigers will have an intrasquad “real dress rehearsal game” next Saturday from 1-3 p.m. He said that he hopes to draw at least 1,000 fans to the event to get his new players comfortable performing in front of crowds.
Myers noted that the Tigers already having to sell standing room only tickets for three regular season games--two vs. Florida and one vs. Texas A&M.
Cooper said the players are excited about the interest in the program. “It’s awesome. Auburn has opened its arms and wanted to support us from the start. We are just looking forward to the stands being filled. We thought it was loud last year. We can’t wait to see the support from Auburn and the Auburn Family when it comes around.”