AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn softball had different and similar thoughts when it learned of its NCAA Tournament Super Regional matchup with Oklahoma on Monday afternoon.
Most of the team first reflected on its 3-2 win over the Sooners in its season opener in the Triple Crown Tournament in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Casey McCrackin remembered not having good at-bats against Oklahoma pitcher Paige Lowary. The second baseman pictured the speed and movement of the ball coming at her with bat in hand.
On the other hand, Kendall Veach recalled the two solo home runs she hit off of Lowary.
And of course, those players who competed in Oklahoma City last postseason were taken back to the Sooners capturing the 2016 national title in the best-of-3 series.
“I try not to hold a grudge, but I do think it does fire us up and add more fuel to the fire to drive us to win because there is a little bit heartache in there,” Victoria Draper said.
Overwhelmingly though, the Tigers shared the same feeling about the weekend Super Regional matchup.
“Everyone was really excited to get that matchup again,” McCrackin says. “It’s going to be difficult, but I think everyone is ready to play it.”
The Tigers picked up the bats and momentum in regional wins over ETSU and Cal. Clint Myers’ team knew the likelihood of hosting Oklahoma.
Yet Auburn knows too well that every opponent at this point is talented — all it needs to do is reflect on its loss to LSU and early exit from the SEC Tournament. So they aren’t putting too much emphasis on another battle with the Sooners.
“It is what it is,” Myers said. “It makes for good television, it makes for a good storyline. You’re going to have to play the best sooner or later — we’re just playing them sooner.
“There’s a good history, great respect, they’re a talented team. Now it has to be proven between the lines.”
Besides, if they’re going to keep the reigning national champs from a shot at another title, the Tigers would much rather have that fight unfold on the Plains.
The memories of a less-than-welcoming sea of fans dressed in crimson and cream are vivid.
“I think it’s a lot better to play them here instead of Oklahoma,” McCrackin said. “It’s almost like they have home advantage in Oklahoma. Now we have the advantage. It’s going to be really great having all these fans. They’re going to want to see us take revenge, it’s exciting.”
There’s also a chance that Jane B. Moore Field is going to be a little more crowded (and hence possibly louder) than usual.
Auburn is adding an additional outfield platform to seat around 200 more fans.
“Well it’s huge,” Myers said. “We won’t be able to duplicate the 8,000 they had in the stands, but the 3,000 we’re going to have here will make it seem like 8,000, smaller stadium. I’m hoping fans just go crazy, have fun and let ’em see what the south is all about, see how close a family we are and make life miserable for the Sooners. It’s going to be fun.”
But as ready as Auburn is, familiarity and fan support alone won’t make things easier.
Lowary and Oklahoma ace Paige Parker boast 1.67 and 1.34 ERAs respectively. Myers noted that Parker is known for throwing “balls that look like strikes.”
“She’s a good pitcher and she wins,” Myers said. “And she’s got a great cast that’s behind her.”
Regardless, Auburn is prepared and eager for what could be a three-game series to get started.
“In order to win (it all),” Myers said. “You have to be able to beat great teams.”