May 2, 2014
Clint Myers has Auburn headed in the right direction at season's end (Zach Bland photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Timing is everything, Clint Myers figures, and his Auburn softball team has found it with a five-game winning streak that will take the Tigers into their last regular-season series at South Carolina.
"The idea was to be playing our best softball at the end, and we're really starting to understand that," says the Auburn coach.
The Tigers have qualified for next week's SEC Tournament, also at South Carolina, and are a lock for the NCAA Tournament with a No. 20 national ranking and a 16 RPI.
"We know what lies ahead of us. We're going to determine our own destiny," Myers said. "We know we're in the SEC Tournament, and that was the first goal. Where we finish now is really in our hands."
"Hopefully," said slugger Kasey Cooper, "if all comes out right, we'll host a regional."
Auburn needed to a good performance last weekend to assure itself a spot in the SEC Tournament, and succeeded with a sweep of Texas A&M. The Tigers are 37-14-1 overall and 10-11 in the conference. South Carolina, needing a win or two this weekend to secure a spot in the tournament it will host, is 33-18 overall and 9-12 in the league.
The weekend series starts tonight at 6, Auburn time, followed by a 3 p.m. Saturday game and a noon Sunday game. Because the spring semester is over, Auburn will stay in Columbia to wait for the start of the SEC Tournament, which begins Wednesday.
Auburn has gotten here with power. The Tigers lead the SEC in RBIs and runs scored, and by a huge margin, and came in the week tied with Georgia for the most home runs, with 74. Two of the biggest came last Friday in the bottom of the seventh when Cooper hit a grand slam to tie Texas A&M, and Branndi Melero slammed a home run to win it.
"We've got six or seven kids who are starting to see the ball pretty well and swinging pretty good," Myers said.
Melero and Cooper are 1-2 in the SEC in RBIs, with 74 and 68, respectively; and are tied for third in home runs, with 15 each.
Melero is in the Top 5 in six offensive categories in the league.
The hidden stat: Auburn leads the SEC in fielding percentage.
Another more obvious fact: Auburn is getting hot again at the right time.
"Hopefully they can see the things we've been talking about all season and they kind of put it together," Myers said. "We've been saying as long we have an out to play with, we're still in every ball game.
"The consistency part is the nice thing to see."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine