Auburn Softball Kicks Off Fall Season
Auburn coach Mickey Dean expects to see improved hitting from his Tigers in 2018 (photo: al.com)
The Auburn softball program began its second year under Mickey Dean by hosting a trio of teams that included Northwest Florida State as well as in-state teams Wallace State–Dothan, and Wallace State–Hanceville. To say there were some surprised softball fans Friday night would be an understatement as Auburn dropped a 1–0 decision to Wallace State Community College from Dothan.
Dean, a coach known for his prowess in coaching pitchers, sent four different hurlers into the circle for the Tigers. Those will be the stable that Auburn will lean on all season. Makayla Martin should be the unquestioned ace of the group with Chardonnay Harris and Ashley Swindle pitching behind the senior from California. Lexie Handley made her first appearance for Auburn and the 6′ 1″ sophomore transfer from Akron teamed up with the three veterans to toss ten strikeouts.
“I felt good about how our pitchers threw tonight,” coach Dean said. “Makayla’s movement was ridiculous. Ashlee’s drop ball was really working for her tonight. I thought Chardonnay and Lexie pitched well, too.”
However, it wasn’t enough to win, and Auburn was able to record just three hits from the likes of Morgan Podany, Alyssa Rivera and Kendall Veach. The team continued to show Dean’s more aggressive approach to base running as the Tigers piled up eight stolen bases. Fans may recall that graduated Victoria Draper set the record for stolen bases at Auburn with 38 despite having her worst year at the plate.
Hitting was an issue in 2018 as the team slid in essentially every hitting category since the beginning year of the Clint Myers era. The team hit .281 in 2018 against all opponents but just .211 against the SEC. Even with the best pitching performance in Auburn history, the Tigers didn’t make it past regional play. It surely seemed that hitting, under the care of Eddie Kettelhut, may have picked up right where it left off: in the cellar.
Dean and Kettelhut decided to use the off day on Saturday to address the hitting issue as the Tigers bounced back in a big way in Sunday’s doubleheader.
“Yesterday at practice, we made it very simple and refocused,” Dean said. “They showed today and yesterday in practice what they can do at the plate. I thought our pitchers did a pretty good job today. I like our progress, but we still have work to do. The players know that, and the coaches know that.”
Casey McCrackin was the surprise hitter of 2017–2018. After being little more than a bit player under the Myers staff, McCrackin finished the season hitting a team-best .318 in the SEC with eight home runs, good for second on the team. McCrackin added five hits in the two games while sophomore shortstop Taylon Snow added four. And, McCrackin also had a three-run moon shot that highlighted the day. Alyssa Rivera is the unquestioned power hitter on the team, so expect her and McCrackin to do the bulk of the damage for Auburn, offensively.
Dean sent essentially every Auburn player to the plate, and twelve players recorded hits on Sunday. Martin and Swindle teamed up in game one, while Harris and Handley took care of business in the late game.
The University didn’t record a full box score for any of the games.
Auburn is in a position to have a terrific season with a group of talented seniors to lead the way. The Tigers are loaded with experience. Martin, McCrackin, Morgan Podany, Kendall Veach, and Bree Fornis are all seniors with something to prove and are hungry after falling short the last two years.
Behind them are some extremely talented and experienced juniors such as Tannon Snow, Justus Perry, Alyssa Rivera, and KK Crocker. Elsewhere, expect converted shortstop-to-third baseman Makenna Dowel to have a huge year. Redshirt Carmyn Greenwood returns after an injury cost her all of last year. It’s possible she replaces Draper in center.
Auburn returns to Jane B. Moore Field on September 28 and welcomes Auburn University at Montgomery. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. CT. If you live in the area, come out and support the Tigers. Admission is free.