Kasey Cooper (above), AU's senior third baseman, is the current SEC Player of the Week.
Auburn, Ala.--Clint Myers isn’t discounting the importance of doing well in the rivalry series this weekend, but said the biggest thing for his Auburn softball team is to build momentum to help the Tigers perform at a high level in the postseason.
The Tigers will play a three-game series Friday-Sunday vs. Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Auburn was the No. 5 team nationally in the preliminary seedings by the NCAA Softball Tournament Committee and the veteran coach hopes his team can stay in the top eight seeds after playing three games in Tuscaloosa and then traveling to Knoxville, Tenn., for next week’s SEC Tournament.
“Playing well going into the SEC (Tournament), that’s the key,” said Myers, whose team could be the No. 2 seed behind Florida or the No. 3 or No. 4 seed for the 12-team conference tourney depending how Auburn plays in relation to Texas A&M?and Tennessee.
Auburn, which is 43-8 overall, is 15-6 in the SEC, currently in third place in the league standings behind 15-5 Texas A&M and the 20-3 Florida Gators, who clinched the regular season title last week.
Last year Auburn repeated as SEC Tournament champion going into the event as the No. 4 seed. Tennessee is currently in that position at 14-6 in league games going into a weekend series at Texas A&M.
“The important one (question) is what kind of bearing the SECs, and this weekend, have on the seeding purposes for regionals and super regionals,” Myers said of the NCAA Tournament. “If you are in the top eight you are at home all the way to Oklahoma City (site of the College World Series) and that is nice. That is what we talk to the kids about--we determine our own destiny.
“If we play well, and win a few ball games, more than likely we will stay in the top eight,”?the hall of fame coach pointed out. “If you are in the top eight that is somebody coming here and they will have to deal with our fans and our field.”
Alabama is 39-13 and at 11-9 in the league. The Tide is out of contention for one of the first round byes in the SEC Tournament the top four teams in the league receive. However, Myers said that Alabama will be challenging to defeat this weekend.
“We are going to have to play well,”? Myers said. “There is no doubt about it. We are facing the pitching staff that has the highest strikeout rate per staff (for SEC teams) in Alabama with (Sydney) Littlejohn and (Alexis) Osorio. We have to control our (strike) zone and really stay disciplined. They key is making contact and really putting pressure on them defensively.”
Kaylee Carlson, who leads the SEC in victories with 24, is expected to pitch on Friday night for the Tigers.
Myers noted that Friday’s 7 p.m. CDT game will be the first he has coached in Tuscaloosa and the first time any of the players have competed there in an SEC game.
On Thursday the Auburn coach talked to 2016 AU All-American second baseman Emily Carosone about the upcoming road trip. “She said, ‘Coach, you are going to find it quite interesting.’ It is a rivalry everybody talks about, but until you experience you really don’t know what they are talking about.
“We had a pretty good rivalry, Arizona State and Arizona, and that got kind of mean at times, but I am anxious to see what is going to happen and how it is,” Myers added.
The coach noted that he hopes the rivalry will make keep his players focused this weekend.
“You can listen, but you don’t hear anything,” he said of how to handle a rivalry situation in front of a hostile crowd. “It gets to a point where it is just noise if you are really locked in to what you need to do. You are not hearing the words, you are just hearing the sounds. The key with that is you control what you let in between the ears...To me it is more of a motivating thing.
“The more they (opposing fans) are riled up, the better I thought I was doing,” Myers said of his playing days as a baseball catcher. “I hope the girls have that same mentality.
The two teams will also play at 7 p.m. on Saturday and at noon on Sunday. The Saturday game will be televised on ESPN and the Sunday contest is on ESPN2. The Friday game is part of a Bases Loaded coverage package on the SEC Network.
“I think it is going to be a good battle between two good SEC team,” Myers predicted.