By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - The first time Kasey Cooper spoke, the tears outnumbered the words.
"I'm proud I came to Auburn," said Cooper, asked to reflect on the emotions she was feeling minutes after the conclusion of one of the most brilliant careers in Auburn athletics history.
Cooper, who went 1-for-3 with an RBI in her finale, narrowly missed hitting a home run for the second straight Super Regional game, with Oklahoma winning 5-2 to advance to the Women's College World Series.
"The girl [Oklahoma left fielder Macey Hatfield] made a good play," Cooper said. "I just missed by millimeters. I thought it was going to be iffy. I was hoping by the grace of God that something was going to happen. I had that feeling that I just missed a little under."
Cooper concludes her career with 270 runs batted in, No. 1 all-time in the SEC. Her 67 homers are an Auburn record.
"We left a legacy for sure," said Cooper of fellow seniors Haley Fagan, Jenna Abbott and Sydne Waldrop. "I remember the first time the coaches came in and they said, `We're going to the College World Series,' and we all laughed. Everyone was like, `You're crazy. You guys are all psycho.' They got us to where we are. We expect to be great."
Cooper said she and her graduating teammates are leaving Auburn's program better than they found it.
"We have very young girls come in on visits," she said. "When I grew up, the biggest program in Alabama was Alabama. Everybody wanted to go to Bama. Now, girls are starting to come to Auburn. They're like, `I want to come to Auburn. I want to play under Clint.'
"It's so rewarding. I'm very proud of where this program has gone. It's grown a lot," said Cooper, the tears returning as she concluded her remarks.
Minutes later, Auburn coach Clint Myers ended his session with reporters by assessing Cooper's impact, and the future of the Tigers program.
"She's a potential Rhodes Scholar. She's a three-time All-American," Myers said. "When we started four years ago, we said we have to start a tradition. We have to create a legacy."
Myers mentioned a sign in Auburn's press box, which reads, `The road to OKC goes through Jane B. Moore Field.'
"We've been able to host three Super Regionals. There's a reason," he said. "We've been there two out of four years. There's a reason. Do we expect to be there next years? You bet. Do we expect to host another Super Regional? Yeah.
"In order to win, we've got to play better. We've got to perform better. We've got to execute better. But that's the legacy of all the seniors."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer