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'Ready to play': Auburn softball season starts Thursday
Coach Mickey Dean speaks with the team after practice
Coach Mickey Dean speaks with the team after practice
Feb. 6, 2018

By Jeff Shearer

Game Notes - Plainsman Invite Get Acrobat Reader

AUBURN, Ala. - Courtney Shea doesn't need a radar gun to confirm Auburn's emphasis on pitching velocity. She can see it firsthand each time she looks at her red palm after catching Auburn's pitchers.

"They're definitely throwing harder," Shea said. "I can feel it in my hand."

Coach Mickey Dean places a premium on strikeouts from Auburn's pitchers, and stolen bases when the Tigers are at bat.

"Hopefully we'll get Vic around the bases a lot more," Shea said of fellow senior Victoria Draper, who is 18-for-20 in career stolen bases.

"We're ready, we're antsy," Shea said. "Vic's been hopping around all weekend, saying 'I'm just ready to play,' so I feel like the rest of us feel like that, too."

The Tigers' wait is nearly over. The Dean Era begins Thursday at 5 p.m. CT when Auburn hosts Marshall in the Plainsman Invitational.

"Excitement. Energy," said Dean, who came to Auburn after five seasons at James Madison. "I don't want us to be anxious but I want us to understand the urgency of being ready."

Three weeks of preseason practice provided opportunities for players to compete for a spot in the lineup, one Dean said he will not finalize until 35 minutes before the season opener.

"Three weeks ago I was worrying about who can get the job done, and now they're stepping it up a little bit and making it a little more difficult to do a starting lineup," Dean said. "We have some kids who have stepped up and are ready, so that's a good problem."

The Tigers have two options at each infield position, Dean said.

"We feel comfortable where we are defensively, so it's going to come down to who's hitting," he said.

Casey McCrackin and KK Crocker are contending for the second base job.

"Everyone is competing really hard," said McCrackin, who is also practicing at shortstop and third base. "Everyone's working hard and trying their best. Competition is great for a team, great at each position."

Auburn plays seven games this weekend, with doubleheaders on Friday, Saturday and Sunday after Thursday's opening night.

A chance to experiment with lineups and pitchers, perhaps? Dean won't go there. Marshall is the only game on his mind.

"We're going to start our best nine, and then the game will dictate that," he said. "I don't worry about all that stuff. It's one game at a time. When we get opportunities to put kids in who won't be in the starting lineup, then we'll take advantage of that. But that's not something I go into a game thinking about. Their opportunity to win their position and win their playing time is during practice.

"We're always going to start with our best nine, and the nine that I feel gives us the best opportunity to win that ballgame."

The coaches are new. Some of the players are new. But the enthusiastic Auburn fan base that's caught softball fever in recent years remains the same.

"I think they'll see a lot of energetic girls ready to implement what Coach Dean has taught us," McCrackin said. "To pick up where we left off, but on a better foot."

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

2018 Plainsman Invitational Schedule

Thursday, February 8
Time Game Coverage
3:00 p.m. Auburn 4, Marshall 0
5:30 p.m. Auburn 2, Wichita State 0
Friday, February 9
Time Game Coverage
9:00 a.m. Tennessee Tech vs. Marshall
11:30 a.m. Furman vs. Wichita St.
2:00 p.m. Tennessee Tech at Auburn
4:30 p.m. Furman at Auburn
Saturday, February 10
Time Game Coverage
9:00 a.m. Marshall vs. Tennessee Tech
11:30 a.m. Furman vs. Marshall
2:00 p.m. Auburn 18, Tennessee Tech 0 (5)
4:30 p.m. Auburn 9, Furman 1 (6)
Sunday, February 11
Time Game Coverage
All Sunday games have been cancelled.



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