Photography: Johnny Lawrence

Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: Tigers Going To The Ship, Big Cat Weekend A Success

Auburn is playing for the national championship in women's softball and the football Tigers had a productive Big Cat Weekend on the Plains.

Tigers Answer The Bell Once Again

It’s hard to imagine the emotions that the Auburn softball team was going through in the seventh inning of Sunday’s game against FSU. Leading by three runs and seemingly in the control, the Tigers found themselves tied in the blink of an eye and fighting for their spot in the College World Series final round.

Once again this group of Tigers wasn’t going to be denied.

We’ve already seen it several times this season, but Clint Myers’ team has a never-say-die attitude that carries throughout the entire roster.

No question the stars came out in the win with Kasey Cooper hitting a towering home run and adding a spectacular defensive play at third, and with Jade Rhodes and Carlee Cooper adding homers as well, Auburn’s offense got the long ball going, but in the end it was two of Auburn’s lesser-known players who made the plays of the game.

The first came in the sixth inning. With two runners on base and just one out, Florida State sliced a ball into left-center field that looked to be trouble for the Tigers. When center fielder Victoria Draper left her feet it was feast or famine for the speedster, and she was eating. Making a head-first dive to save two runs, her defensive play kept Auburn’s lead at three and could have been the difference in the game.

Photography: Johnny Lawrence

Victoria Draper (right) and left fielder Tiffany Howard react to the center fielder's spectacular catch in left center field.

That set the stage for Madi Gipson’s heroics in the bottom of the eighth inning. Just 4-26 in postseason play when she stepped to the plate, Gipson ripped a single to left field that bounced off the FSU outfielder and went all the way to the wall. Never slowing, Gipson raced into third base. Speedy Morgan Podany would replace her as a pinch-runner and score the winning run for the Tigers, but Gipson’s big hit was just another chapter of this Auburn team finding a way to win.

Now the Tigers face perhaps the toughest challenge they’ve seen all season against an Oklahoma team that has won 30 straight games and comes in with a record of 55-7 this year. Facing a pitcher in Paige Parker who has won 36 games this season and thrown every single pitch for the Sooners in the postseason, Auburn will have to beat one of the best left-handers in the country twice in the next three days to come home with the title.

If I’ve learned one thing over the course of the last three seasons that Myers has been in charge of the Auburn program, it’s don’t bet against the Tigers.

 

Big Cat Weekend A Success

Auburn had a very impressive group of prospects on campus and got a pair of commitments over the weekend from four-star athlete Malcolm Askew and junior college running back Octavius Matthews. While Askew is one of the best prospects in the South, the commitment of Matthews may be one of the most important in the class for the Tigers.

With Jovon Robinson gone after this season, Auburn needs another every down back to step on the field in 2017 and compete for playing time right away. Matthews is a guy who should be able do that and with a more mature body he should be ready to go when he steps on campus.

Something else to consider with Matthews is that he played high school football as a senior for Mark Rose, one of the most demanding coaches in the state. The former Auburn offensive linemen expects his teams to play physical and work hard, meaning Matthews should have no problems getting the job done when he arrives on the Plains.

Another of the more interesting visitors for Big Cat Weekend was four-star defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. One of the top prospects in the country and perhaps the top overall defensive lineman in the junior college ranks, Buggs arrived in Auburn late Friday night and stayed into Monday before returning home.

On campus for three days, Buggs got to experience what Auburn is all about while also getting to hang out with several of the players. That includes senior defensive tackle Maurice Swain, who also played at MGCCC. If Auburn winds up landing Buggs this weekend’s visit will be an important reason why.

A player who Auburn is continuing to trend upward with in this recruiting cycle is four-star wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman from Newton County High in Covington, Ga. Visiting Auburn twice in the last few weeks, Hollomon remained on campus Saturday night and participated in Auburn’s camp on Sunday.

Working closely with Auburn WR Coach Kodi Burns, Hollomon got a lot of reps in and also built a strong bond with the first-year Auburn assistant. That’s something that is an important part of the decision for Hollomon and there is no question the Tigers have some strong momentum at the moment. Georgia has long been considered the favorite for him, but Auburn is in the hunt and may be closing ground very quickly.

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