Whitney Jordan (above) is scheduled to start at shortstop for the Tigers.
Auburn, Ala.--Looking to follow the best softball season in Auburn history with an even better one, Coach Clint Myers will put his third AU team on the field Thursday as the Tigers open the 2016 schedule with a 6 p.m. home game vs. Appalachian State.
After a long preseason preceded by fall workouts, Myers said the Tigers are eager to play a game. “Practices are hard, but games are fun,” the Hall of Fame coach said. “That’s what they’re looking for. They need a little fun and need a little competition. They need to hit off somebody other than our pitchers so we can get a true test of where we are and where we need to go.”
The defending SEC Tournament champions posted a 56-11 record last season and won their first-ever NCAA regional tournament and followed that with a victory in the super regional round to earn a trip to the College World Series in Oklahoma City where they won two games. Myers and his players said the goal for the 2016 season is to come home from Oklahoma City with the national championship that was won last season by the Florida Gators.
The Tigers, who are ranked No. 4 nationally in the preseason Top 25, return all of their pitchers and only lost two starters in the field, although No. 1 shortstop Haley Fagan is not expected to be available until later in the season when she is further along in her rehab from a knee injury.
Lexi Davis is shown in action at the 2015 College World Series.
Senior Marcy Harper will open the season as the starting pitcher and fellow senior Rachael Walters is expected to pitch in relief vs. Appalachian State.
The pitching staff includes last season’s top winner, Lexi Davis, who posted a 26-3 record as a junior. Joining the trio of seniors are Kaylee Carlson, a sophomore transfer from the University of North Carolina, and freshman Makayla Martin.
The Tigers will play five home games from Thursday through Sunday as they are host for the Plainsman Invitational.
“All five pitchers will see work,” Myers said. “We’ve got the pitching rotations and the what-if plans for the first two days because they are single games. Then on Saturday, because we have a doubleheader, we’ll be dependent on pitch counts and matchups. Everybody is going to throw this weekend. Everybody is going to have the opportunity to show what they can do.”
Whitney Jordan, a sophomore from Athens, Ala., will get the start at shortstop after performing well in the preseason. Jordan was a backup shortstop last year, but had moved to right field in the fall to take over for 2015 senior Branndi Melero.
Myers said he has been pleased with how she has performed and Jordan noted it is comforting to be flanked by returning All-Americans with senior Emily Carosone at second base band junior Kasey Cooper at third base.
Victoria Draper, a sophomore with excellent speed, is expected to be the new starter in center field to replace 2015 senior Morgan Estell, the team’s fourth leading hitter in batting average at 367 last year. Carosone led the Tigers at the plate with a .438 batting average and 18 home runs. Tiffany Howard, who returns in left field, batted .415 as a junior while Cooper hit .391 with 18 home runs.
The team’s home run leader, first baseman Jade Rhodes with 19, is ready to go after missing the fall exhibition games with an injury.
The Tigers will play Western Kentucky at 5:30 p.m. on Friday and on Saturday they will take on Butler at 12:30 p.m. and Furman at 3 p.m. On Sunday the Tigers will have a rematch at 1 p.m. vs. Appalachian State.