All-American third baseman Kasey Cooper (above) is a key player for the Tigers,
Auburn, Ala.--For Auburn’s fourth-year head softball coach, Clint Myers, the focus for every season is being ready to perform as well as possible at tournament time, which is almost here for the Tigers.
“The consistency is the challenge, both offensively and defensively, which is something we talk to them about on a regular basis,” he told Inside the Auburn Tigers.
“We have to run the bases the right way every single time,”?he said. “We have to catch the ground balls and play pitch and catch the right way every time.”
The next opportunity to do that will be on Thursday in Knoxville, Tenn., in the second round of the SEC Tournament. Drawing an opening round bye as the No. 2 seed after taking two of three games over the weekend at Alabama, Auburn will play at 4 p.m. CDT vs. the winner of a Wednesday matchup between No. 7 seed Kentucky and No. 10 seed South Carolina.
The Tigers won two out of three games on the road vs. South Carolina in April and have not played Kentucky this season.
With a 45-9 overall record and a 17-7 mark in the SEC, the Tigers will try to win the league tournament championship for a third consecutive year. Last season the Tigers had an opening round bye in the event at Starkville, Miss., prior to defeating Alabama 6-4, Florida 2-1 and in the championship game they cruised to a 7-1 victory over LSU.
Last year the Tigers relied heavily on the nation's leading offense in runs per game. This year the pitching has led the way with this week's SEC Pitcher of the Week, Kaylee Carlson, who leads the league in victories at 25-3. The junior right-hander has a 1.17 earned run average.
Kaylee Carlson is in her second season with the Tigers.
Auburn used its SEC Tournament runs the past two years to give the Tigers momentum for the NCAA Tournament, winning regionals and super regionals on their home field both times to send the team to Oklahoma City for the College World Series. Last year Auburn reached the national championship game where the Tigers lost 2-1 to Oklahoma.
Based on their regular season performance the Tigers look to be in good shape to be a top eight national seed. On Saturday night the NCAA Tournament’s selection committee announced a preliminary listing of the potential top 10 national seeds and put the Tigers at No. 5.
“If you are in the top eight you are at home all the way to Oklahoma City and that is nice,” Myers said. “That is what we talk to the kids about--we determine our own destiny.”
Kentucky brings a 35-16 record into the tournament and finished 12-12 in the conference. South Carolina is 32-22 and was 8-15 in the SEC regular season.
If the seedings hold in Auburn’s half of the bracket the Tigers could run into the host team, Tennessee, in the semi-finals. The Vols (44-9, 16-7) defeated No. 4 seed Texas A&M two out of three games last weekend. Auburn and Tennessee were scheduled to play once during the regular season at a neutral site, but did not play due to bad weather.
Florida, which is 50-5 overall and 20-3 in league play, goes into the 12-team tournament as the top seed. The Gators, who won two of three vs. the Tigers in Gainesville, were the only team to win a series vs. Auburn this year.
The Wednesday and Thursday games will be televised on the SEC Network. The semi-final matchups are scheduled for TV coverage on ESPNU with the championship matchup being televised on ESPN.