Carlee Wallace (above) is shown in action at the 2016 College Softball World Series in Oklahoma City.
Auburn, Ala,--A two-year starter who is expected to again be a key player for the Auburn softball Tigers, Carlee Wallace agrees with her head coach, Clint Myers, that the 2017 team is a work in progress.
After going through a demanding series of practices and dominating all of their exhibition games in the fall, the Tigers began preseason drills on Thursday morning with the first of two practices as they prepare for the season that will open with a trip to Mexico in February.
Coach Clint Myers said the team’s young players need to make more progress and Wallace has noticed the same thing.
“It is good,” the junior said of how the Tigers performed in fall workouts. “We have a lot of learning to do with the young ones, a lot of teaching to do, but they are moving in the right direction.
“It is not the easiest thing in the world to come into this program and have to compete for a spot, especially with the big bats we lost last year there is a lot of pressure on the freshmen,” Wallace pointed out. "I think they are handling it very well and I think the older players on the team, me included, are going to step up and take the reigns and lead this team to the same success we had last year.”
Wallace batted .281 as a freshman with three home runs and 29 RBI. She hit .287 with five home runs last season and drove in 42 runs as the Tigers reached the championship game of the College World Series before ending the season with a 2-1 loss to Oklahoma.
Wallace noted she has been focused on improving her hitting with Casey Myers, one of the team's assistant coaches. The catcher said she feels good about how that is going.
“Casey and I worked some things out with my swing,” she pointed out. “My biggest contribution to the team is on defense so we are working to make me a well-rounded catcher, including the hitting part.
“We are going to be relying more on my bat this season,” she noted. “I feel great. I am kind of simplifying things and hopefully that will carry into the spring.”
The Tigers return their top two pitchers from last season with MaKayla Martin back for her sophomore season and Kaylee Carlson returning as a junior.
Asked how the pitchers performed in the fall practices and exhibition games, Wallace said, “They looked great. We have a wide variety of pitchers this year--a little bit wider than even last year. They are falling into their roles very nicely. The young ones are doing great and we have the veterans, Kaylee and Mac (Martin), to help them out along with Jenna Abbott. I think it is a good mix of youth and vets.”
Auburn has won the SEC Tournament in back-to-back seasons and returns key players such as All-American third baseman Kasey Cooper, shortstop Haley Fagan and center Victoria Draper.
Coach Clint Myers congratulates Kasey Cooper after she hit a home run in Oklahoma City.
“We have the makings of a great team,” Wallace said. “I think a lot of the young ones haven’t bought into that yet because it is frustrating when you come in and don’t really see the end result. Being here for two years and have seen it work.
“I ?have seen what happens in September and October and I can see the finished product in June,” Wallace added. “I think we have the makings of a good team. I think it is going to take a little more time with the freshmen to get to understand that what we go through in the fall there is a reason for it, and it works. It may seem ‘what are you asking me to do?’ from the coaches, but there is a method to their madness.”
The Myers method has led to back-to-back SEC Tournament championships and the first two trips in program history to the College Softball World Series. Last year the Tigers reached the championship game where they fell 2-1 to Oklahoma, the team they will open the 2017 season against on Feb. 9th in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Auburn's 58 victories last year were the most by any team in the country and an AU single-season record.