Auburn, Ala.--This weekend’s NCAA Softball Tournament super regional matchup between No. 4 seed Auburn and Arizona at Jane B. Moore pits two of the most decorated coaches in the game in Clint Myers and Mike Candrea, but it has plenty of subplots as well.
Auburn is seeking its second College World Series appearance in program history after going last year while Arizona is looking for its 23rd trip to Oklahoma City and ninth national championship as well as its first appearance in the World Series since 2010.
A player who knows very well what Arizona is all about is Auburn sophomore catcher Carlee Wallace. Growing up in California, Wallace was recruited by the Wildcats before ultimately committing to Myers while he was still at Arizona State. Making the decision to come to Auburn with Myers, Wallace said everything has now come full circle with the Wildcats standing in between Auburn and the College World Series.
“I actually already have some history with them already because when I was committed to Coach at Arizona State it’s kind of put into your system that you hate the Wildcats,” Wallace said. “Even though we’re an SEC team, from me being committed to Coach at ASU I have a little bit of a history with them already.”
Batting .311 this season with four home runs and 37 RBI, Wallace is one of the key bats behind Auburn’s three All-Americans at the top of the batting order--Tiffany Howard, Emily Carosone and Kasey Cooper. While her offense is important, the biggest job for Wallace is controlling the Tigers’ pitching staff from behind the plate.
Being a part-time psychologist is a role that Wallace has to play in dealing with senior pitchers Rachael Walters, Lexi Davis and Marcy Harper as well as junior Kaylee Carlson and freshman Makayla Martin. With so many different pitchers to deal with, Wallace said it takes some work on her part to make sure everything runs smoothly during a game.
“Each pitcher expects and needs something from me,” Wallace said. “Some need me to go out there and tell them it’s okay. Some of them will rip my head off if I go out there and tell them it’s okay. Some of them want me to tell them that they’re having a bad day and they need to get it together.
“I take pride in knowing what each of my pitchers need because when they’re having a rough day sometimes I’m their only friend out there. They are different personalities, but in an odd way all of their personalities mesh and I think that’s why our pitching staff has been so successful this year.”
Wallace (right) congratulates pitcher Kaylee Carlson, who is expected to start Saturday's game vs. the Wildcats.
Entering the weekend with a team ERA of 2.15, Auburn’s pitching staff will face off against an Arizona offense that is batting .297 with 67 home runs this season and averaging 5.6 runs per game. Needing to continue to pitch well this weekend with Arizona’s staff allowing the opposition a batting average of just .233 and score 3.12 runs per contest, the Tigers will have their work cut out for them against the Wildcats.
In the end it will be about the players on the field, but the coaches will get plenty of headlines as well when the two teams take the field. After that it’s all about winning two games against one of the most historic programs in college softball, something Wallace said would make the weekend even bigger for the Tigers.
“They are a great program,” Wallace said. “I have been to a couple of camps with Coach Candrea and he’s awesome. In my recruiting process I got to talk to him on the phone a little bit and he’s a great guy and a great coach and is very similar to Coach. It’s a huge deal for a lot of people just because they are who they are, but it doesn’t change what we do on the field at all.”
Game times for the Super Regional at Jane B. Moore Field are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. CDT on Saturday (ESPN2) and 1 p.m. on Sunday (ESPN). If a third game is needed it will take place at 4 p.m. on Sunday and be televised on ESPNU.