Alyssa Rivera (above) is from Lake Region High in Eagle Lake, Fla., where she hit for power and average.
Auburn, Ala.--When Auburn opened its SEC softball road schedule with a series at Florida in March, not only was Alyssa Rivera not in the lineup, the rightfielder wasn’t even on the traveling squad.
As Auburn opens play on Friday as the host for a four-team NCAA regional tournament, Rivera will not only be in the lineup, she will be counted on to produce for the Tigers.
“She has learned a lot,” Coach Clint Myers said. “I think the biggest thing she has understood is that she has better perception that when I say something, I mean something.
“We talked about these things and there was a reason why we left seven freshmen home,” Myers said. “We haven’t had that problem since--not only with Alyssa, but the other freshmen have learned some important messages.
“It is about growing as a person, understanding life and getting better, taking that knowledge where you put it to work to perform at the highest level possible,” the coach said.
Rivera’s role is now a major one. She has been batting fourth in the lineup and become the starter in right field. She earned Freshman All-SEC honors and leads the Tigers in batting average at .380 while playing in 46 games with 31 starts.
Asked about missing the conference road opener at Florida, Rivera said, “It just pushed us to work harder. I wasn’t the only one.”
The outfielder noted that attention to detail is important and has helped her improve. “Just trust in the process, just taking in every single thing that they tell you and doing it to the best of your ability,” she said in explaining the change in her status with the team.
The Tigers, who are 46-10, are the No. 1 seed for the Auburn regional. They are scheduled to play at 3:30 p.m. CDT on Friday vs. Southern Conference champion East Tennessee State (29-24) at Jane B. Moore Field. The opening game in the regional matches No. 2 seed Cal (30-22) vs. No. 3 seed Notre Dame (33-21) at 1 p.m. Auburn’s Friday game will be televised on ESPNU.
Rivera said that being able to play collegiately for the Tigers is “everything I expected” as she looks for a big finish to her freshman season that will include playing for the junior national team that will begin training June 10th in Oklahoma City, the site of the College World Series where the Tigers are hoping to finish their season.
“I am really blessed to have this opportunity to be on this team, especially to be at the D-1 level,” Rivera said of her freshman season with the Tigers. “It has been a lot of fun.”
Myers hopes the fun continues until the final game of the season. Asked about Rivera’s potential, the coach said, “Her ceiling is pretty high. She could be a five-tool person because she has an above average strong arm, she is an above average runner. She can hit for power, she can hit for average and she has proved she can be an outstanding fielder.
“The ball is in her court,” Myers added. “She has got to refine and make it so it is the next step above good.”
Auburn Regional Schedule (All Times CDT)