AUBURN, Ala. — Kendall Veach’s night against Team USA on Saturday started like almost all of her Auburn softball games in the spring — over at first base.
Veach finished the doubleheader against the national team as the third baseman for a collegiate all-star team from Alabama. But the middle stretch — the first three innings of Game 2 — was a preview of what the rising junior could do in 2018 for the Tigers.
Veach played catcher in a battery with Auburn’s rising sophomore pitcher Ashlee Swindle. For Veach, it was a return to her natural position and a possible first look at her new role at Auburn.
“That was fun,” Veach said. “I missed it. I haven’t caught since my freshman year, so I’m excited to get back there and maybe take on the role, you know, next season.”
Veach was a highly touted catcher out of Morgan Academy in Selma, Ala., where she batted .557 with 14 home runs and 63 RBI in a monster 2014. But when she arrived on the Plains, Auburn was already set at catcher with Carlee Wallace.
Things have changed for Auburn and Veach, who started most of her 61 games at first base as a sophomore in 2017. Wallace announced her decision to transfer last month, leaving the Tigers with a gap at catcher. Auburn rotated Wallace with Courtney Shea last season and wants to rotate catchers again in 2018.
That prompted Veach, who drilled an RBI double in Game 1 against Team USA, to start working more behind the plate this summer.
“I’m excited,” Veach said. “I told Coach that I’m ready to take it on. Gotta get the knees back there, back in shape, but it’s going to be fun.”
Veach said she has worked at first base, catcher and third base this offseason. Former Washington transfer Tannon Snow, who did not play at all in 2017, is an expected starter who is a natural first baseman.
Veach could switch to third base and replace all-time program great Kasey Cooper, but the Tigers have several highly touted infielders coming into the program as freshmen in 2018. A move to catcher could be the best-case scenario for both Veach and Auburn.
“I’m just going to be ready when my name is called,” Veach said. “That’s what Coach tells me.”
Veach said she has to get used to “squatting that long” again, and she had a couple of minor missed catches Saturday night against Team USA.
But Veach’s battery partner was impressed with what she saw out of the returning catcher.
“Kendall is great,” Swindle said. “I like Kendall there. She hasn’t caught in two years, so she was like, ‘I’m a little rusty.’ But I told her, ‘It’s just like you picked it right back up.’ She did great.”
If Veach moves to catcher for 2018, she’ll already have an advantage of sorts with the coaching staff.
Veach’s older brother, Hunter, is now Auburn’s full-time pitching coach after taking over the role on an interim basis after Corey Myers’ abrupt resignation. The power-hitting infielder is looking forward to that aspect of a potential new job with the Tigers.
“I always enjoy him in the dugout,” Veach said. “And even with catching, since he’s going to be the pitching coach, that’ll be fun for us.”