Auburn Softball News and Notes: 2/13/18 Edition
First year Auburn softball coach Mickey Dean came to the Plains with the reputation as a pitcher’s coach. His time at James Madison demonstrated how he could take a small school with a limited budget and develop the program into a regular among the Nation’s top ranked teams. Dean’s approach was that everything starts and ends with pitching. Teams can be extremely successful with premier pitching, even with an average roster.
What would happen if you combined top level pitching with premier recruiting and a program on the rise?
That’s exactly what Auburn softball fans have been so eager to see.
Of course, anyone following the program knows that this could be an interesting year for a program that had such an astounding rise from mediocrity to being one of the nation’s top-tier programs in less than five years.
Obviously, Auburn’s program was involved in turmoil in the off-season with rumors abounding, regarding the Myers’ coaching staff and implications of a cover-up of improper relationships between coaches and players. Lost in the shuffle, perhaps, was the graduation of several players who were cornerstones for this program. Players such as Kasey Cooper and Haley Fagan, as well as the surprisingly departure of catcher Carlee Wallace.
Cooper’s loss was obviously expected, but Wallace was the heir-apparent to the leadership position vacated by Cooper. Suddenly, Auburn’s roster looks awfully young with Victoria Draper, Courtney Shea, and Kaylee Carlson as the only seniors on the team. Luckily, behind them stand a handful of juniors who have at least some starting experience.
Going into the season, pitching was already excellent for the Tigers but it was expected to get even better under Mickey Dean. The question would be, how would the bats transition as many of the new full time starters have had experience. Yet, batting has been questionable and how would they compare to the ever increasing talent pool behind them?
Auburn’s start of the season kicked off against some teams that are simply not on the level of the Auburn Tigers. And by the end of the weekend questions still remained.
Auburn’s pitching was better than expected, allowing only a single run in six games. However, aside from the massive offensive outputs against Tennessee Tech and Furman, Auburn’s offense was a tad stagnant in the second games.
It may sound harsh to criticize a team that began the season allowing only one run while acoring 38 runs in a 6-0 run. However, that stagnation should be expected early in the season with so many new faces in the lineup. Still, the heavy lifting is being done by only a few players and that won’t work moving forward.
Speedy slapper Victoria Draper has picked up where she left off as she hit .538 in her 13 bats from the lead-off slot. Surprisingly, veterans Kendall Veach, Tannon Snow, and Alyssa Rivera struggled at the plate, none of whom hit above .200 on the weekend, although Snow and Veach each had a homer. Veterans KK Crocker, Shea, and Morgan Podany filled out the middle of the pack. Part time player from last season Justus Perry, who was prone to long slumps at the plate, made waves for the Tigers with two homers and a double on her eight hits.
Although Taylon Snow experienced a bit of freshman jitters at shortstop, she was terrific at the plate. She had 20 at-bats, the most of any Tiger, and hit .500 with five RBIs.
It was expected that Kendall Veach would make the move from first to third with Tannon Snow returning from a battle with epilepsy last season. And Veach struggled at the hot corner with a team-leading three errors over the weekend. Auburn also struggled turning double plays
Regardless of the hesitation elsewhere, the pitching was amazing. Once a pitch-to-contact staff, now a strikeout-oriented group of aces, Mikayala Martin and Kaylee Carlson teamed up for 27 strikeouts on 20 hits, walking only three batters. Sophomore Ashlee Swindle made a an expected short appearance. What wasn’t expected was for freshman Chardonnay Harris to pitch four innings in her first start. Harris came out on fire, allowing no hits while she rang up six Ks and allowed just two walks.
The Tigers take on the Troy Trojans Wednesday night in Montgomery. Auburn will be back in Jane B Moore this weekend for The Tiger Invite. Coming to town are Maryland, Delaware, and St Francis from Pennsylvania. You can listen to the game on the Auburn Athletics App. Make sure to follow me @Best5Zach as I live Tweet in game action. I will be on-site for Sunday’s games.
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