Auburn, Ala.--Coming off a 58-12 season that finished with the Auburn Tigers coming up just short of a national championship, Coach Clint Myers’ softball team is back on the field this fall and without three key pieces of the puzzle that have helped take the program to new heights in the last three years.
Combining for 35 home runs, 183 RBI and 205 runs scored a season ago, second baseman Emily Carosone, first baseman Jade Rhodes and left fielder Tiffany Howard have graduated, leaving a big hole for the Tigers heading into the 2017 season. That is especially true on the right side of the infield.
“Jade and Emily are tough to replace so we’re not trying to,” Myers said. “What we are going to do is put somebody over there and just tell them to be the best they can be, don’t worry about the past. At first base we have Tannon Snow, Kendall Veach, Justus Perry and Jenna Abbott. Justus and Tannon are the two newcomers.
“At second base we’ve got Casey McCrackin, who has moved over from short. She’s still doing some short and going to do a little third base this week. Emily Spain is back and a newbie K.K. (Kaitlyn) Crocker, who has been surprising a little bit. She’s from the Bolts organization and we’ve had a chance to see her play. She’s grasping the concepts, she’s a hard worker, it’s kind of fun to see that happening.”
Washington transfer Tannon Snow will be eligible this season and should bring power to the plate for the Tigers
In the outfield this fall the Tigers aren’t just replacing Howard, but also starting center fielder Victoria Draper and right fielder Madi Gipson as well. With both sitting out this fall after having knee surgery but expected back in time for the season, it has opened the door for some new faces in the outfield in practices said Myers.
“Right now Morgan Podany is probably going to start for us in center field,” Myers said. “We’ve got some freshmen that are playing well, Alyssa Rivera and Brittany Marasette. Whit Jo (Whitney Jordan) is going to go back out there and play a little outfield. She’s playing a little shortstop, too. Sydney Waldrop is out there. Then we’ve got Bree Fornis back and she’s doing a good job and getting better.
“Carmyn Greenwood is another freshman that is really doing well and swinging the bat well. She’s a center fielder that we moved over to play both left and right. There’s a good chance you’re going to see some freshmen play this year because we project where we are here on Oct. 14th and where they are going to be in February and then where they may be in May. Right now there are people out there trying to win positions and that’s a key. We’re pretty excited about that.”
Probably the best news for the Tigers is that shortstop Haley Fagan appears to be full speed and is looking good back at her customary position after sitting out much of last year following knee surgery. With Jordan capable of playing shortstop, second base and even the outfield, Myers said that gives him some options.
“Whit’s kind of flip-flopping from short to second to the outfield,” Myers said. “We have a young freshman by the name of Laney Joiner who is still a ways away still so she’s still trying to figure things out. Haley has been playing very well so having a senior at that shortstop spot is going to be big. The left side with (Kasey) Cooper and her, they have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on.”
With Cooper, Fagan and catcher Carlee Wallace to build around, Auburn has some experience in the heart of the lineup as the Tigers prepare to take the field this weekend in four games against junior college competition. Myers said that’s always a big step for a team and he’s looking forward to seeing how his pitching responds to facing another opponent for the first time.
Back after winning a combined 34 games a season ago, Kaylee Carlson and Makayla Martin are a strong one-two punch for Auburn with freshman Ashlee Swindle and two lefties also ready to help out in the circle this fall.
“It beats the heck out of practicing,” Myers said. “The pitchers are tired of throwing to our hitters and the hitters are tired of hitting off our own pitchers. The pitchers have really looked good. Jenna Abbott is pitching again with Makayla and Kaylee back who did the bulk of it.
“We’ve got Ashlee Swindle, who was the Alabama Player of the Year. She’s starting to understand the concept of pitch to contact, which she didn’t have to do in high school. Then we’ve got a new young lady from Auburn, Alexa Nemeth, who is a little left-hander. She throws a hard 56 MPH, but she hides it well.
“Our hitters really don’t like hitting off her because she’s so slow and has some movement on the ball. We’ve never had a pitcher like that and I do know from personal experience as a player and as a coach that these little thumbers just give you the worst time because it’s so difficult to wait and sit back. It really tests your patience.”
Auburn hosts a round-robin tournament this weekend that includes Mississippi Gulf Coast CC and Wallace State CC-Dothan. Those two will square off at 12 p.m.on Saturday before the Tigers take on Mississippi Gulf Coast CC at 2:30 p.m. and Wallace State CC-Dothan at 5 p.m. On Sunday, Auburn will battle Daytona State in a doubleheader beginning at 12 p.m.
All games are free and open to the public.