As mentioned before, I enjoy watching the Auburn softball team play and last weekend’s super regional reminded me why.
I also enjoy watching a team show the mental toughness to handle adversity, keep battling and figure out ways to win. That is why I watched every pitch last weekend as the Tigers came from a game down to defeat Arizona and qualify for a spot in the College World Series.
The Saturday game the Tigers lost came on one of those days when things didn’t go Auburn’s way, but you could tell that Coach Clint Myers had his players determined to do something about that on Sunday with their season in jeopardy of ending short of the goal of a return trip to Oklahoma City.
The Tigers stayed locked in from start to finish in their doubleheader sweep of Arizona showing the right stuff to correct the issues from game one and get back on track. Whenever something didn’t go their way in the two Sunday games, the Tigers didn’t let it bother them a bit. It was a wonderful thing to watch. I am also looking forward to seeing how this team does in the College World Series.
Arizona was a tough opponent that came into the super regional series with a lot of momentum. You could tell they were excited about their opportunity to upset Auburn and earn a trip to Oklahoma City. However, after losing the opening game on Sunday to even the series at 1-1 the Wildcats didn’t handle that adversity as well as Auburn did after the Saturday game. It seemed to me that the Tigers made up their minds they were going to win and willed their way to victory.
Auburn came out aggressively from the first pitch on day two of the super regional and didn’t back off. There are plenty of examples of that and I will mention two of the ones that got my attention.
With Auburn really needing to get a runner in scoring position trailing 1-0 in the first Sunday game against a pitcher who was throwing very well, second baseman Emily Carosone led off the fourth inning with what looked to be a routine single into right field. However, she noticed that the Arizona first baseman was in the base path between first and second and not paying attention to her.
Carosone took off for straight for second base and ran into the Wildcat player. Although the throw beat her to the second base bag and she was tagged on the play, the senior was ruled safe because of the interference rule and made a double out of a single. Auburn scored four runs in the inning and never trailed in the super regional after that.
Another one of the seniors, Jade Rhodes, made a smart play, too, by sprinting to first base on a swinging strike three the catcher couldn’t handle. Rhodes beating the throw there was an example of how locked in to winning the Tigers were on Sunday. Those type of plays count up and help teams to victories in games against strong competition, which Arizona certainly provided. You could tell that was a well-coached team.
If the Tigers will take that same approach to their games in the World Series, they should be a formidable opponent for any team they face. They have got talent and they know how to win, but so do the other seven teams who found ways to get to Oklahoma City. The potential is there for a lot of tight games that could come down to the way the ball bounces.
My experience as a coach is that teams that are aggressively playing to win, instead of playing carefully not to lose, are going to be the toughest ones to compete against. When you are playing not to get beat, invariably the ball will bounce the wrong way for your side. You will never find a clearer example of that than the Tigers on how they changed their approach from Saturday to Sunday to change the outcome of the Auburn Super Regional.Coach Pat Dye’s Website