AUBURN, Ala. — Clint Myers’ expectations for Auburn softball won’t change.
The Tigers earned their third consecutive national seed in the upcoming NCAA Softball Tournament on Sunday night. But it’s their lowest seed in that stretch, and they’ll enter the tournament with double-digit losses for the first time since Myers’ first season in 2014.
At 46-10, Auburn softball has dealt with the abrupt departure of an assistant coach, suspensions for two key players, a highly publicized postgame incident at Florida and an overall offensive downturn from the last two seasons.
Still, Myers expects the Tigers to play up to their No. 7 seed and make it to the Women’s College World Series for the third time in a row.
“My expectations and what I expect from myself is to go to the College World Series,” Myers said Sunday night. “We’ve been very fortunate. But it’s not about me. It’s about getting the people who play for me to have the same belief system. They have to want to go out there and bust their ass. They’ve got to want to go out there and commit to it with body and soul … and be at a level that they possibly could be.”
Auburn will enter the postseason with four returning starters from the 2016 Women’s College World Series run: Kasey Cooper, Carlee Wallace, Haley Fagan and Victoria Draper. Two starting pitchers from that rotation, Kaylee Carlson and Makayla Martin, will lead the way in the circle.
Myers said Cooper, the SEC’s all-time RBI leader, set the tone for the week at the team’s banquet Sunday night.
“I was telling her … ‘Now you have to put all of those words into play and make every single person on this team believe those words of what we’re capable of doing,’ ” Myers said. ” ‘The one that’s going to have to believe it the most to go out there and get it done the most is you. To go out there and set the stage, set the bar to where excellence is the only thing we’re going to accept.’
“She goes, ‘You got it, Coach. You got it.’ People like her and all the kids that returned from last year, all of them got a sense of it.”
In the last two seasons, Auburn softball entered NCAA play fresh off SEC Tournament titles. This year, the Tigers mustered 2 runs across two games — a win over Kentucky and an ugly shutout loss to LSU.
According to Wallace, the disappointment from the SEC Tournament should push the team’s veterans even harder this week.
“All the energy that we’ve got left in us, we’re going to use it,” Wallace said. “We’re going to lead the team by example. We’re going to keep a high-energy, fast-paced practice, and we’re just going to have to fun. That’s what we need to get back to because that’s why we started playing softball to begin with — to have fun. We need to make this fun for ourselves.”
If Auburn can get back to that form, Myers sees a team that can return to Oklahoma City for a third consecutive season.
“The ceiling for this team could be pretty high,” Myers said. “But we have to play better than what we’ve been playing.”
Myers doesn’t expect his team to fold under adversity. He praised the Tigers’ “resiliency of being 46-10,” and he knows that aspect is huge in the postseason.
More important, a lot of Auburn’s roster knows that from what it did in 2016.
“If we’ve got one out of life, we’ve still got a chance,” Myers said. “Last year’s team proved it. We had the biggest comeback in World Series history and won that game. Those are things that this team has seen, most of them anyway. If they believe that they can do it, this team can do almost anything it wants to.”