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Fall Season Starts for Auburn Softball (A Preview of 2018 Tigers)

By on October 17th, 2017 in News, Other Sports Comment »
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photo: Cody Voga/ Auburn Athletics

Last Friday evening, the Auburn Tiger softball team took the field in exhibition games against Northwest Florida State Community College and Enterprise State Community College. The double header was the first of four. The next series will begin this Friday afternoon against Wallace State and Chipola Community Colleges.

Obviously, the Tigers are playing teams completely outside of the (back-to-back Women’s College World Series) team’s weight class. Wins and losses aren’t the goal of a team that is experiencing its first major turnover since becoming nationally relevant.

The goal is to mesh a young team with a new coaching staff. The past two years, Auburn has lost veteran players that contributed with their leadership on the field and in the dugout . Going into 2016, Auburn had to replace Morgan Estell. In 2017 it was Jade Rhodes, Emily Carosone, and Tiffany Howard. This year it is Kasey Cooper, Haley Fagan, Carlee Wallace and, of course, ex-coaches Clint and Corey Myers. 

Questions surrounding the program about serious allegations of misconduct by the coaching staff led to a dismissal and a retirement. Also troubling was the departure of Carlee Wallace. “Clutch Carlee” would be the leader that would alleviate the growing pains of a team facing the transition from hungry and unappreciated recruits to a young, highly touted but unproven team.

Wallace was going to be the perfect glue for this team because she was the only player who could see all sides. Wallace was Myers’ first major recruiting pull, coming all the way from California to be a part of a program that hadn’t accomplished a thing. She would be a buffer for a young team facing high expectations. However, Wallace chose another path and transferred to Baylor. 

Auburn fans turned out on Friday evening to get their first look at new coach Mickey Dean’s 2018 squad …

 

With many veterans’ departures, it was expected that Taylon Snow would be a day-one starter at shortstop, replacing the graduated Haley Fagan. It appeared that the return of her sister Tannon from an undisclosed illness that caused her to miss the entire 2017 season would move Kendall Veach from first base to, perhaps, catcher. After all, Veach played several exhibition games at catcher in the off-season. In addition Auburn would likely need someone to split duties with Courtney Shea, who as the designated hitter hadn’t been Auburn’s full-time catcher in the past. 

While it was no surprise that Taylon Snow got the nod at shortstop, it was surprising to see her as the leadoff hitter. Victoria Draper slid behind Snow and retained her spot in center field. Kendall Veach remained at first base in the three hole with Alyssa Rivera batting clean-up.

As fans will recall, Rivera had an incredible freshman season, supplanting Whitney Jordan in right field due to Jordan’s atrocious sub-.150 batting average. Rivera not only was an improvement, she became Auburn’s best hitter.

Courtney Shea started at catcher, hitting seventh, and Tannon Snow was Auburn’s DP. None of these were surprises, and all were expected to be in the lineup in some capacity. 

Brittany Maresette earned a starting nod in left field. Maresette has frequently been Auburn’s pinch runner but hasn’t been on the field in any real capacity in her young career. 

Seeing Makenna Dowell earn the nod at second base was a surprise. Second base was a rotating door at times last season with KK Crocker and Casey McCrackin moving in and out of the lineup. McCrackin ended the year as the nominal starter, hitting .250 while committing nine errors (second most on the team). Dowell is one of the shortest players on the team and a talented freshman from Suwanee, Georgia. She bats left and throws right. She was an elite recruit, who hit over .300 all four years of high school. 

Assistant coach Scott Woodward told AL.com that Makenna and Taylon [Snow] “may be the best middle infielders defensively in the country.”

Stats weren’t kept for the exhibition, and the Twitter feed (from Jenna Abbott) didn’t include any scores. But we know that Alyssa Rivera picked up where she left off with several extra base hits, including Auburn’s only homer of the night.

We’ll continue here at TET to follow and report on the team’s progress. The Tigers are back at Jane B. Moore Field this Friday. 

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