May 15, 2014
Kasey Cooper comes home after another homer
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Coach Clint Myers says he doesn't push his players to hit home runs. Promise. He tells them to make good swings, hit the ball up the middle, get base hits.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the NCAA Regional at the University of Minnesota…
Auburn has hit tons of home runs this season, apparently without really trying, and will open NCAA play against North Dakota State at 4 p.m. Thursday as one of the most powerful teams in the country.
"We're a team that has to go out and have to do everything great," Myers said. "We don’t have great athletes, we have great people."
Great people who can hit home runs. Behind sluggers Kasey Cooper and Branndi Melero, Auburn is tied for third in the country in homers with 79, first in scoring with 418 runs and 10th in slugging.
Myers is quick to tell you Auburn got here by being No. 2 in the country in fielding, too. Fielding is what he stressed during fall practice. The home runs happened when the season began.
"Home runs are based off a good swing. He's drilled that in our heads," said Melero, the team MVP with 15 homers. "We're not going out there trying to hit home runs all the time; we're just going out there trying to hit hard ground ball and a low line drives. I'm pretty sure all of us aren't going up there trying to hit home runs."
Funny thing, though, Cooper has 17 homers (and a .416 batting average) and Melero has her 15 home runs (and a .408 average). They live it. "Awesome teammate…great roommate," said Cooper.
"When she comes up to bat, she tells me all the time: 'If you don't get it done, I will. I've got your back.
It's all about teammates. It's nice to have her behind me. She has the stick and she has the glove, so what else is there to love?"
Myers' hitting approach?
"A home run," he says, "is nothing more than the byproduct of a good swing."
"It's all about quality at-bats," Cooper said. "The first thing about a quality at-bat is getting a good pitch. We're taking into consideration the umpire's strike zones and we're up there looking for our pitch. If we don't get our pitch, then usually we walk. We work on getting on base, because that's what ultimately scores run."
Cooper's experience in college hitting has come this season. She's on the SEC All-Freshman team.
"We focused on my strengths more and then we focused on protecting my (weaknesses)," Cooper said. "It's ultimately about which pitch you can hit the hardest the hardest and which pitch the pitchers going to throw at you. That's where it comes down to video analysis and preparation."
Auburn arrived in Minneapolis on Tuesday night…after a normal practice at home Tuesday afternoon.
"Preparation is always business to us," Melero said. "That's why you see us out here today. How many teams are out here practicing the day we leave to go to a different state for a regional? I'm pretty sure we're the only once doing it right now. That just shows how determined we are to go out there and win."
Auburn's 39-17-1 record is the second best in school history. This team has a chance to be the first to advance to the Super Regionals. Last year, Auburn didn't make the NCAAs.
"It was sad," Melero said. "We had to sit there in the team room and hang out together and watch all the other teams go out there and play. We said: 'That should be us.' We're back to our old selves in making to the SEC tournament and the NCAA regionals."
"Look at the things we were able to accomplish," Myers said. "We're in the Top 10 nationally in several categories…scores, run support, RBIs, fielding. Nobody thought that was possible, but through their hard work and dedication and commitment to excellence, they've done a great job. We're going into the regionals with the idea we're going to go to the Super Regionals. I think all four teams have the same mentality. We have just as good a chance as anybody even though we're a two-seed, it doesn't matter. It's about who goes out there and plays the best softball. That team will move on."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: