Ranked No. 17 in RPI, Auburn softball narrowly missed out a on a regional host -- granted to the top 16 teams in the nation -- for the first time since 2014, as the Tigers will travel to Tallahassee, Florida for No. 6 seed Florida State's four-team Regional.
FSU's tournament includes the Seminoles, Auburn, Kennesaw State and Jacksonville State. The Tigers will face Kennesaw State this Friday at 11 a.m. CST, with the last team standing set to advance to No. 11 seed LSU's regional, which contains Fordham, Houston, Louisiana-Lafayette and LSU.
“I think any time you have an opportunity to play in the postseason, that’s not a disappointment,” Auburn head coach Mickey Dean said. “It gives you an opportunity to play for a national championship, and I think that’s what it’s all about.”
Auburn defeated Kennesaw State on April 4 in a nail-biting, 2-1 victory in a midweek game. The team has experience against FSU and Jacksonville State as well, walking off the Seminoles in the 2016 College World Series and defeating the Gamecocks in a 14-2 run-rule the same year.
"We've seen all four teams," senior catcher Courtney Shea said. "(Victoria Draper) and I played at Florida State two years ago. We've played Jacksonville State and we've played Kennesaw State, so I think we're doing good going forward."
“We just have to go out there and do what we know how to do,” senior pitcher Kaylee Carlson added. “We’ve already played this team, so we know them. They know a little about us. I think that’s going to be an advantage to both teams, so we just have to go out there, fix what we did wrong last time and do it better this time.”
Despite suffering a sweep at the hands of Texas A&M in its final SEC series of the year, Auburn (40-15, 11-13) was likely in control of its own hosting fate heading into the conference tournament in Columbia, Missouri last week. The Tigers were bounced in the first game by Alabama, which earned a No. 12 seed and a Regional host Sunday.
Nine of the SEC's 13 teams (Vanderbilt does not field a team) were named Regional hosts (No. 2 Florida, No. 7 Georgia, No. 9 South Carolina, No. 10 Tennessee, No. 11 LSU, No. 12 Alabama, No. 13 Arkansas, No. 15 Texas A&M, No. 16 Kentucky). The Tigers have never advanced to a Super Regional on the road, most recently falling at host Minnesota in the 2014 Regional's final game.
Auburn was nearly unbeatable at home this year at 29-3, but turned in a sub-500 mark of 11-12 on the road.
“It’s no secret that we’ve been struggling on the road,” Carlson said. “So I think now’s our time to prove that we can go out there and we can beat any school at any place.”