Feb. 2, 2006
Auburn softball begins its 2006 season on Feb. 10 when hosting Minnesota and Miami (Ohio) at the Tiger Invitational. Here's a look at what the Tiger outfield will bring to the team this season.
There is a sense of consistency surrounding the Auburn outfield as it enters the 2006 season, and with three returning starters and four players overall, why not?
Lauren Walton, Amy Shaw and Sara Ghezzi patrolled the outfield last season, and provided the Tigers with production both offensively and defensively. Senior Krista Barts and sophomore Brittany Scott are the returning non-starters, while the team will get an influx of new talent in the shape of freshmen Taryn Gray and Myesha Finney.
"Out outfield is deep and talented this season," Auburn head coach Tina Deese said. "It's somewhat young, but our core players out there have battled hard in the SEC and know what it takes to win."
As the team's center fielder, Shaw is the de facto leader of the outfield. She proved last season - her first with the Tigers after transferring from Wallace Dothan - that her range is a significant part of her game. Shaw made a number of diving stops to help keep Auburn leads, including one against Alabama in Tuscaloosa that helped guide the Tigers to a 4-2 win.
She also showed offensive improvement late in the season, evidenced by her selection to the SEC All-Tournament Team in Gainesville, Fla.
"Amy has natural speed and a great presence in center," Deese said. "She's the kind of player a team needs out there. She's willing to make sacrifices to get that important catch."
Shaw will be backed by a duo of two-year starters for the Tigers in Ghezzi and Walton. Ghezzi brings perhaps the most impressive credentials to the Auburn club this season after earning a first team All-SEC honor last season.
Ghezzi batted .324 as a sophomore, including 15 doubles and 30 runs batted in. She had a 10-game hit streak midway through the season, and through two years on the Plains, has accumulated 21 multiple-hit games.
"Sara is a stalwart for us," said Deese of Ghezzi, who was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2004. "She has the perfect stroke for Jane B. Moore Field and plays consistently in right field."
Walton is coming off a season in which she played in all 68 of the team's games, starting all but one. She provided a sense of defensive leadership in left field, posting a .958 fielding percentage.
"We're looking for Lauren to keep improving this season," Deese said. "She's done that every year she's been here, and we see that as a real possibility again this season."
Scott and Barts have not seen much action with the Tigers in a combined three seasons, but have been valuable off the bench. Scott, for one, came across the plate 17 times last season while being employed primarily as a pinch runner. She also stole eight bases in 11 attempts.
"As returners, Brittany and Krista know what it takes to win in the SEC, which is very valuable," Deese said.
Deese has brought in Gray and Finney, two freshmen who have impressed early on with the Tigers. Both played the corner outfield slots well during the fall, their first action with Auburn.
Finney comes to the Tigers from Atlanta's South Gwinnett High School, where she was named as First Team All-State and All-County in 2001, 2003 and 2004.
"Myesha, like all other freshmen, will have a steep learning curve in the SEC but she knows softball," Deese said. "She came to Auburn after earning many awards in high school, which were all deserved."
Gray is the final piece of the outfield's puzzle, and the Vestavia Hills native has already shown a penchant for timely hitting. She impressed during the fall, often spraying the ball around the outfield from the batter's box.
She batted .451 her senior season at Vestavia Hills, posting 38 RBI and a .944 fielding percentage.
"Taryn really has the opportunity to do some good things as a freshman," Deese said. "But a lot of that will depend on how comfortable she gets at the college level. That will be key."