Feb. 4, 2014
Morgan Estell is one of the leaders coming back from Auburn (Missy Hazeldine photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn softball coach Clint Myers says he's a little concerned about depth for his Tigers this season.
Third baseman Maris Medina says let's play ball.
"We definitely don't have as much depth as some teams," Medina said. "We don't have four people for one position. We have just enough. I think we're talented enough. It's not going to be an issue for us."
Auburn opens the season Thursday at Troy at 3 p.m. before opening the home season Friday against North Dakota State at 6 p.m. The Tigers will play Morehead State and Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday and then play Tennessee Tech and Notre Dame on Sunday.
There's been an attitude shift for Auburn since Myers, he of nine Division I or junior college national titles, arrived in June. He said the Tigers were still be a work in progress heading into the season. Still, players say they seen the foundation of a turnaround after finishing 13th in the SEC last year.
"It's a new season, a new coaching staff and we're really excited to get things going to prove the SEC wrong," Medina said. "Everything is much, much different. It's more organized. We're excited to be out here and we're ready to show off what we've been working on."
Myers said the players have accepted his style of coaching.
"They truly understand what our expectations are," Myers said. "Excellence is what we're after every single day on every single pitch. The key parts are teaching them how to make this happen.
"What we're seeing right now is everybody locking in on their roles. The main concern right now is depth. We don't have any."
Myers has only three seniors. Injuries have hurt, too. Sixteen of the 23-person roster are either freshmen or sophomores.
"Everybody is learning everything new," Myers said. "Some have experience to make it a little easier. The freshmen are freshmen, and they may struggle with new concepts and the physical demands. But the older kids are hanging in there."
Two Tigers were named to the preseason All-SEC team: outfielder Morgan Estell and infielder Emily Carosone. Estell hit .344 with four homers, 23 RBI and a school-record 60 runs scored and a school-best .482 on-base percentage. Carosone was named to the All-SEC freshman team after hitting a team-high .389 with four homers and 35 RBIs.
Myers work doesn't stop with filling out his lineup card. Already the Tigers are selling season tickets for the first time and have attracted young fans for clinics. Myers has already dispatched his players out in to the community.
"We want this to be the fans' team, their team," he said. "We want them to feel like when they come out they're cheering for themselves because we want to be accessible, whether it's autographs, or kids running the bases on Sundays with the team out there giving high-fives. We want to be as active as we possibly can in the community.
"We want a sense of ownership, too: 'Hey, that's my team.'"
Myers started his team's season with Marcy Harper and Lexi Davis as his starting pitchers. They combined for 25 wins last season. Ready in relief were Hillary Mavromat and Jenna Abbott.
The catchers were Austyn West and McKenzie Kilpatrick. "They'll probably be splitting the catching.
The one who doesn't catch will probably be the designated player," Myers said.
Abbott and Mavromat will be called on to play first, with others, while Jade Rhodes works her way back from injury. Carosone will be at second. "She had a very good year last year," Myers said.
Kelsey Bogaards will be counted on at shortstop "to be the field general out there," Myers said. "She's understanding the mentality of what we're trying to get across." Kasey Cooper and Maris Medina will handle third. The swing player for the infield and outfield will be Madi Gipson. "She's playing everywhere, as is Maris."
The outfield will feature Estell in center, Tiffany Howard in left and Branndi Melero in right. Kristyn Richards and Jordan Rocker will be available there, too.
Maria Mitchell, Anna Gibbs, Ashley Leon will also be available.
"When we get some games under our belts it will make us a lot better when they can see how everything works," Myers said. "It's been a whirlwind so far. It's been pretty darn awesome."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: