Jade Rhodes had the hug for Carlee Wallace after she delivered the game-winning hit in the SEC title game
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Carlee Wallace is a self-described West Coast kid who says didn't know much about the South, much less Auburn.
But she knew Clint Myers, and that was good enough.
The catcher, from San Diego, and the coach, who won two College World Series at Arizona State, traveled cross country to be with the Auburn softball program, and they both have delivered in a big way. Myers will lead Auburn to its second NCAA Regional in two years, this time starting at home Friday, and Wallace will be there as the player who drove in the winning run in extra innings to give the Tigers their first Southeastern Conference Tournament championship last Saturday.
Myers began recruiting Wallace years ago and when he switched jobs, she switched schools.
"He knew he was going to do great things here," Wallace said. "I put my faith and trust in the coaching staff. I had known them since I was a freshman in high school. It was one of those things I had to take a leap of faith that they were not going to stir me in the wrong direction."
They didn't. Wallace got a chance to deliver the big hit to beat Tennessee in the SEC title game, and now Auburn is heading to the NCAAs. The Tigers will open play against Tennessee Tech at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Jane B. Moore Field after South Alabama and Chattanooga open regional play at 3. The championship game is Sunday, and, should Auburn win it, the Tigers will host a Super Regional next week, too.
Auburn, with a 49-9 record, and now its first SEC title in hand, has momentum, thanks, in part, to Wallace's big hit.
Oh, and the celebration that followed when Auburn players raced to embrace Wallace.
"I was so locked in because we do this every day in practice that it didn't register that we won until I turned around and Jade Rhodes is going to maul me. But it was fantastic," Wallace said. "It such a blessing to be able to be a part of that moment in our history. We're in the history books forever on that one. We're the first Auburn team, 2015, to break through."
Wallace, who signed with Auburn in November 2013 to play in 2015, took it all in.
"I was from California, a West Coast kid. I really didn't know what was out there," she said. "I took my visit out here, and I was like, 'This is a beautiful place.' This is such a blessing I get Coach and I get this beautiful place to call home. It's such a family-oriented atmosphere. I may miss my family in California, but I have a huge Auburn one here."
She found her moment, that game-winning double, on a team that otherwise built its name hitting home runs.
"I can use it as a confidence booster, but I also know I need to put it behind me and kind of thinking of it as, 'Yeah, that was a great thing we did, and you're very capable of hitting in pressure situations, but you just have to move on.' Everyone starts over with a clean slate after the SEC championship," Wallace said.
-- Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) May 14, 2015
Carlee Wallace, MVP Emily Carosone and coach Clint Myers talk about Auburn winning SEC tourney title in Baton Rouge pic.twitter.com/jh1hrR7Cya
-- Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) May 10, 2015
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine