Softball Spotlight: An Interview With Kendall Veach
Auburn’s Kendall Veach talked recently with Track 'Em Tigers' Zach Taylor. (Photo: by Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics)
The past two years have seen a massive rise in popularity for Auburn softball. Coach Clint Myers’ arrival on the Plains transformed a fledgling program, firmly in the shadow of cross-state rival Alabama, into a national powerhouse.
Auburn’s back-to-back SEC Championships and runner-up finish in last year’s Women’s College World Series finals to Oklahoma will forever cement players such as Tiffany Howard, Jade Rhodes, Emily Carosone, and Kasey Cooper in Auburn lore. Even the casual fan will remember them because of their role in establishing Auburn as a preeminent SEC softball program.
Though Cooper and a handful of other good players such as Haley Fagan and Carlee Wallace remain on the roster, there were serious questions about who would replace the pillars on which Auburn softball was built into a powerhouse program.
Before the season, we knew that Alyssa Rivera, Justus Perry, and Tannon Snow were possible replacements. All of these young ladies came out of high school as some of the country’s top recruits, and they looked the part in the fall season as the Tigers steamrolled competition. Auburn’s hot bats looked as good as ever, even with young replacements like Snow. Tannon slid right into the lineup, replacing Jade Rhodes both at bat and on first base.
Yet, when the Tigers headed to Puerto Vallarta to begin the 2017 season, Snow didn’t make the trip due to an undisclosed illness. In her place would be Kendall Veach, who started just one game in 2016 but appeared in 23 games. She batted .263 in 19 at-bats and logged more walks (7) than hits (5) with only one hit going for extra bases.
Expectations were low for the second start of her young career in Mexico. After a first inning strikeout, Veach blasted the first home run of her career and added another later that day. She hasn’t slowed down since and is tied with Courtney Shea for the team lead with four homers, while batting .244 and sitting at third in RBIs (12). She is second in slugging percentage at .578, just behind Shea.
How does it feel for the sophomore from Selma, Alabama go from bench player to cleanup hitter on America’s No. 2 ranked team? Track ‘Em Tigers was able to interview her soon after the Tigers’ return from Mexico. Here is what she had to say:
TET: Fans were treated to a completely new lineup this year, compared to last year. In particular, Kasey Cooper moved to leadoff from the three-hole spot. That move certainly makes sense, considering how often they walk Cooper. Other than that, fans were certainly surprised to see you hitting cleanup. Can you tell us how it feels to be hitting in that spot? What is the pressure like? Can you give us a feel for the dynamic of the team throughout the lineup?
Kendall: “It feels great to know that the coaches have confidence in me to put me as cleanup. The pressure is definitely there but knowing my teammates and coaches believe in me to get the job done, the pressure never gets overwhelming. Our lineup this year is strong and full of potential. When we start clicking we are going to be dangerous.”
TET: Expectations from fans may have been a bit low, considering that you were supposed to be a backup. Your first at bat didn’t go so well. You surprised fans not once, but twice afterwards. Can you walk us through those at bats? What did you see? How did you feel? What was the feeling in each at bat?
Kendall: “Playing Oklahoma [the No. 1 team in the nation] in Mexico was only my second start at Auburn. Therefore, I was anxious during my first at bat. Not doing so hot after the at bat, I calmed my nerves and replayed all the pitches I got. So when I came up next, I knew exactly what pitch I wanted, and I knew when I got that pitch I was going to put my best swing on it. And that’s exactly what happened in my second and fourth at bats. It was an awesome feeling jogging home to meet my teammates who were excited and cheering for me!”
TET: Softball, even going back two years, wasn’t a fan favorite at Auburn when you were recruited. That has certainly changed. What do you think of the fans and the atmosphere around Auburn?
Kendall: “The Myers have completely changed the reputation of Auburn softball. They turned this team into a top ranked team in three years and have been contenders for the WCWS for two years. The atmosphere now is incredible. We have the most supportive fan base here. It’s truly awesome to know that the fans have our backs through the wins and losses.”
TET: Auburn was invited to the Triple Crown tournament two years ago, before the run into the Women’s College World Series. The Tigers lucked up getting Auburn vs Oklahoma. Can you tell us about how they prepared and what your mindset was going into this game? Fans only saw the games. Tell us about the experiences off the field in Puerto Vallarta.
Kendall: “We worked very hard and put everything we had into preparation for the tournament and the season. We were obviously very excited to play Oklahoma, but we treated it just like any other game. I think that was a big reason for our success against them. It was very enjoyable and something I’ll remember forever. The scenery was beautiful, and the time by the pool wasn’t half bad either. It was also very special for me that my parents could make the trip down with us; having them there took the experience from special to priceless.”