By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Kasey Cooper can win another national award Tuesday night, but she's got bigger things on her mind.
"It's a great feeling, but as far as it matters, hardware doesn't win championships. It's not going to help us win a ball game. The goal is to win a national championship."
And with that, Kasey Cooper, Auburn's third baseman, headed to Oklahoma City for softball's College World Series, an event that will start Thursday for the Tigers when they play UCLA. Winning that is paramount for Cooper. But nobody would complain if she added the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award to her espnW national Player of the Year Award or her Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Award.
Cooper is a finalist for the USA award with Florida's Aleshia Ocasio and Michigan's Sierra Romero. They'll be honored at a banquet in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night.
"It's a really cool honor, but I haven't really taken it in yet because I'm still focused on the team," Cooper said. "It's hard for me to focus on myself at all. It's a great honor and I'm so happy that it happened here at Auburn.
"My coaching staff has always been behind me and they're so proud of me. My teammates and coaches are just as happy as I am."
'We're playing our best softball right now,' says Auburn's Kasey Cooper on way to the College World Series. Video. pic.twitter.com/rDtnzzodek
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) May 30, 2016
Cooper's stat line is this: 19 home runs, 76 RBIs, .425 batting average and a dazzling .589 on-base percentage. She also proud of this: She's an Academic All-America and was named the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year. All-around player? She was also named to the All-SEC Defensive Team and already is a two-time All-American. She holds 10 school records.
"If I had a vote," said Auburn coach Clint Myers, "it would be Kasey Cooper, just because of the value to our team. If you look at the numbers — walks, home runs, game-winning hits."
This is a return trip for Auburn to Oklahoma City after last year's World Series run.
"It's a great feeling just because it's a different route this year," Cooper said. "Our backs were against the wall (in last weekend's Super Regional) and we truly played as a team in that final day. Our character was revealed. It's a great feeling that we're playing our best softball right now.
"We've grown throughout this year because we don't have new faces, but we have a new team. There's a different team chemistry. It's a team process. Our character was revealed this weekend and we're firing on all cylinders. Our hitting came through when it needed to and our defense was fantastic."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine