Photography: Dakota Sumpter

The SEC Season Is Almost Here for Auburn With No. 1 Florida Visiting the Tigers

Defending SEC Tournament champion Auburn will play host to defending national champion Florida as both teams begin their 2016 league softball schedule.

All-American Kasey Cooper is having a standout season at third base and is hitting for power and average.

Auburn, Ala.--Clint Myers preaches the importance of focusing on one game at a time, but the veteran softball coach and his players know that tougher competition is almost here with defending national champion Florida coming to town for a three-game series next Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

The Gators, who are currently ranked No. 1, are off to an impressive start with a 22-0 record. Auburn isn’t far behind at 20-1 and a No. 3 national ranking.

“Oh, my gosh,” senior pitcher Rachael Walters said about the upcoming series vs. the Gators. “I was just getting pumped thinking about it, but I said, ‘Wait a second, you have another weekend before then,’ but we are excited.”

The Tigers took care of business over the weekend at their Wilson/DeMarini Classic, posting a 5-0 record in the event with wins over Indiana (8-7), Murray State (10-0), Bryant University (10-0) and on Sunday they swept a doubleheader vs. Georgia State (7-0 and 9-0).

“This team has a good vibe,” said Walters. “The other day (vs. Indiana) showed us we are going to really be a fighting team again. We were behind by seven runs and fought back. I think we really needed that as a team. We are working to build our character now.”

Myers agrees with Walters about the comeback win on Friday night being a positive for the team.

“We are learning and we are getting better,” said Myers, Auburn’s third-year head coach. “We are a lot better now than when we started the very first tournament. It is going in a good direction and we will see how good we have advanced when we play Florida.”

Auburn’s No. 1 pitcher at the start of the season, Marcy Harper, struggled for the first time this year vs. Indiana. Harper came into that contest with a 0.99 earned run average, but gave up a first inning grandslam home run and six total runs in two innings before coming back to pitch two scoreless innings the next day vs. Bryant University.

“Marcy had a little hiccup early on, but she came back and threw well,” Myers said. “It is a game of bumps in the road, it is what you do with the bumps. Again, the pitching is looking really good. We just have to be more consistent with our bats. I thought the defense played well. I?thought we had some great plays.”

Coach Clint Myers led the softball Tigers to their first College World Series appearance last season.

Myers said the Tigers need to make sure they do a good job of “timely hitting” and added, “We can’t afford to leave runners in scoring position. That is where we will focus this week.

“Once we start the SEC, when we get somebody in scoring position, we want to score them 80 percent of the time if we can do it,” Myers said. “If we do that we are scoring runs, and if we are scoring runs we have a chance to win. We are getting people on.”

Auburn's on-base percentage is .511 compared to .248 for Auburn's opponents through 21 games.

The Tigers are hitting .393 as a team. Senior left fielder Tiffany Howard, who on Sunday broke the school record for career triples with nine, leads in batting average at .543 while Kasey Cooper is next at .512 with a team-high seven home runs and a team-leading 31 RBI. 

 Prior to taking on the Gators, Auburn will play a home doubleheader on Wednesday with 4 p.m. CST and 6:30 p.m. games vs. Tennessee State.

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