Oklahoma City, Okla.--The SEC Player of the Year, Scholar-Athlete of the Year and finalist for National Player of the Year, Auburn junior Kasey Cooper was honored again on Thursday when she was named the first three-time softball All-American in Auburn history.
Named a first team All-American third base for a second straight year while senior Emily Carosone was named a second team All-American and senior first baseman Jade Rhode was a third team selection, Cooper said individual awards aren’t what is on her mind as the Tigers prepare to face UCLA in the opener of the Women’s College World Series on Thursday.
“I’m still focused on the team,” Cooper said. “It’s hard for me to focus on myself at all. It’s a great honor and I’m so happy that it happened here at Auburn. My coaching staff has always been behind me and they’re so proud of me. My teammates and coaches are just as happy as I am.
“It’s a great feeling, but as far as it matters hardware doesn’t win championships,” she added. “It’s not going to help us win a ball game. The goal is to win a national championship.”
To do that Auburn needs Cooper to continue putting up the numbers she’s done since arriving on the Plains out of Dothan High School three years ago. Named the National Co-Freshman of the Year in 2014, Cooper batted .418 with 18 home runs and 77 RBI. Last season she hit .391 with 18 home runs and 61 runs batted in to show her first season was no fluke.
This season Cooper has done it again, all with a target on her back as one of the nation’s top players. Leading Auburn with a .425 average, 19 home runs and 76 RBI, Cooper’s year may be the best-ever for an Auburn player. While her numbers are impressive, she said the only thing that matters right now is winning games and coming home with the ultimate trophy, the national championship.
“It’s a mentality this year because we’re ready for it,” Cooper said. “We know what to expect. We know it’s going to be a long process. We’re here to win a national championship and we expect nothing less.”
Those expectations come after a tough season that has seen this group of Tigers overcome a pair of injuries at shortstop and having to adjust to being the hunted instead of the hunter. Faced with the pressure of dealing with huge expectations for the first time in program history, Auburn has responded with 54 wins and a second consecutive world series appearance.
“It’s a great feeling just because it’s a different route this year,” Cooper said of how the 2016 team has responded this season. “Our backs were against the wall and we truly played as a team in that final day. Our character was revealed. It’s a great feeling that we’re playing our best softball right now.
“We’ve grown throughout this year because we don’t have new faces but we have a new team,” she added. “There’s a different team chemistry. It’s a team process. Our character was revealed this weekend and we’re firing on all cylinders.”
Auburn will face off against UCLA on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. CDT in the second game of the day at the Women’s College World Series. The winner will face either Florida State or Georgia at 6 p.m. on Friday.