Victoria Draper (above) is in her second season as Auburn's starting center fielder.
Auburn, Ala.--With her being a key part of the offense in addition to being a defensive standout in center field, the Auburn Tigers hope that junior Victoria Draper will continue to be productive at the top of the batting order like she was last weekend.
In her team’s three-game sweep of the NCAA Auburn Softball Regional, Draper was frequently on the base paths. She was 5-11 for a .455 batting average and drew a pair of base on balls.
“Hitting is definitely contagious,” said Draper, who has a .349 batting average for the season as the Tigers prepare for a super regional matchup vs. Oklahoma. She helped spark a strong offensive performance that featured 40 hits in three games as the Tigers batted .426 in the regional.
“My sole job is to get on base so I can hopefully start the offense rolling,” she said. “For me it doesn’t necessarily have to be a hit. I get pumped up if I get on base regardless because I know there is a high percentage I will score.”
Runs could be difficult to score against the defending national champions, who feature a pair of outstanding lefty pitchers--Paige Parker and Paige Lowary.
A left-handed batter, asked about the challenge of facing tough lefty pitching, Draper said, “Any good pitcher is going to be a challenge, especially this far into postseason. Every pitcher we face is going to be good.
“Staying in our mental plan and seeing good pitches, and taking a good swing on those good pitches you get, is going to be key and not get caught up in ‘oh, she’s a lefty or oh, she’s doing this.’ Just seeing a good pitch over the white part (of the plate), your plan is to hit.”
Carlee Wallace takes batting practice during a Wednesday session at Jane B. Moore Field.
The super regional, a best two-of-three series, starts at 3 p.m. CDT on Friday at Jane B. Moore Field. The Tigers (49-10) will have homefield advantage vs. the Sooners (54-9), who defeated the Tigers two games to one in the 2016 College World Series championship series in front of thousands of OU fans in Oklahoma City.
“It is certainly a big matchup,” Draper said. “I think we are ready for it. I think our crowd will help us.”
Game two is set for noon CDT on Saturday. If a third game is necessary it will be at noon on Sunday. Friday’s game is scheduled for TV coverage on ESPN2. The Saturday game is scheduled for ESPN.
Senior lefty Jenna Abbott pitches in in Wednesday's practice.
Last year’s two losses to the Sooners at the College World Series were tough to handle for an Auburn team that was determined to win the university’s first softball national championship.
“I try not to hold a grudge, but I do think it does fire us up and add more fuel to the fire to drive us because there is that little bit of a heartache in there,” Draper admitted. Auburn won a rematch, 3-2, in the 2017 season opener for both teams, but the games that really matter this season be played at Jane B. Moore Field this weekend with the winner advancing to the College World Series.