Auburn softball will look to prove itself against SEC competition after being picked to finish ninth in SEC preseason coaches poll Wednesday morning.
In Mickey Dean’s first season on The Plains, the Tiger’s record slipped from their past dominant performances; in conference play, Auburn fell to 11-12.
The Tigers return Makayla Martin on the mound, as well as starting outfielders Morgan Podany and Alyssa Rivera. The infield returns corner players Kendall Veach, Tannon Snow and Makenna Dowell, along with middle infielders Taylon Snow and Casey McCrackin.
Auburn will need to rely on Martin heavily on the mound after losing Kaylee Carlson. Her 1.36 ERA from her junior season is the second lowest in program history and was second among SEC pitchers.
Auburn got put out of postseason play last year after losing to Jacksonville State in the Florida State Regional. The past three years, Auburn had made the Super Regionals, and in two of those three years, had advanced to the College World Series in Oklahoma City. Auburn also won back-to-back SEC Tournament titles from 2015-16.
Some important questions for the 2019 season:
1. Who will replace centerfield speedster and lead off slapper Victoria Draper?
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Possible replacements would include Bree Fornis and Brittany Maresette who are also known for their speed and have been frequent pinch-runners. Carmyn Greenwood, who redshirted last year, started 24 times her freshman season and could also return to the outfield lineup.
2. Who will Auburn rely on in the batting lineup?
Taylon Snow, KK Crocker, McCrackin and Podany are all candidates for leadoff positions due to their speed and ability to bunt and slap. In the heart of the lineup, Auburn will need to clean up some streaky hitting, looking for more consistent power from Rivera, Veach, Tannon Snow, and Perry.
3. Can the pitching staff outlast a difficult SEC season?
As Carlson graduated last year, the only returning Auburn pitcher with significant time and experience is Martin. Auburn picked up Akron transfer Lexie Handley and has options in Ashlee Swindle and Chardonnay Harris in the dugout.
The preseason will be a time to figure out who the Tigers will rely on for their second string pitcher in a three-game series. They have a little time before they face Texas A&M in their SEC opener on March 15th.
The season will begin at the Sand Dollar Classic in Gulf Shores, Alabama, on Feb. 8, with games against Tennessee State, Western Kentucky, Missouri State, Louisiana Tech and Florida A&M.
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