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Apr 20, 2018
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  Softball Returns

It was an offseason to forget for the Auburn softball team, but that doesnít mean 2018 doesnít have the potential to be a success for first-year head coach Mickey Deanís team.

After failing to reach a second consecutive appearance in the Womenís College World Series, Auburn faced a scandal during the offseason that led to the retirement of head coach Clint Myers, who had turned the program from a conference bottom dweller to a national championship contender.

However, even with Myersí exit and Deanís entrance, the Tigers enter the 2018 season ranked No. 13 nationally. And for good reason.

This yearís team will likely continue to be led by the strong pitching of Kaylee Carlson and Makayla Martin. Carlson, who was recently named to the USA Softball Player of the Year watch list, will likely hold a majority of the responsibilities in the circle. She recorded a record of 27-5 last year with a 1.36 ERA. Martinís 1.98 ERA and 20-6 record showed how reliable she can be, which will likely be pushed a little further this spring.

Auburn faces the challenge of needing to replace stars Haley Fagan and Kasey Cooper, but it appears the Tigers will attempt this feat with a balance of all-around talent.

Auburnís infield will likely be a bit of an experiment, with young talent playing at nearly every position. The offseason included several moves, such as Kendall Veach moving to third, Justus Perry will likely start at first base despite seeing action in only 26 games last year.

Young talent continues for Auburn in Taylon Snow, who is expected to start at shortstop as a true freshman. The Chino Hills (Calif.) High School graduate has high expectations to meet early in her career, but sheís said to have the skillset to be the Tigersí next star.

With K.K. Crocker returning at second base and Alyssa Rivera as two of the only other solidified positions, Auburn has three other experienced players itíll likely depend on: Victoria Draper, Courtney Shea and Veach.

Draper returns after starting all 61 games last year in centerfield. She scored a team- high 44 runs, hit a team-best .500 with runners in scoring position and .444 with runners on base, led the team with nine stolen bases and also had 52 hits.

Veach also started all 61 games last year, playing third base part time and first the rest of the time. She had team highs with 12 home runs and four triples.

Shea returns after starting 56 games behind the plate or as a designated player. She had a perfect fielding percentage as a junior and batted .280 with runners in scoring position.

Auburn has been a fun team to watch the past several years. Though winning games at high rates makes anything fun, the 2018 Tigers might still provide the fun previous teams have offered.

Auburnís No. 13 ranking shows the Tigers are still well thought of, but four SEC teams (Florida, Texas A&M, LSU and Alabama) still ranked above them. With the season opening Feb. 8 at home against Marshall, weíll see sooner than later how the Tigers stack up.

Of notable home games, Auburn hosts the Tiger Invite Feb. 16-18, with Delaware, Saint Francis (PA), Maryland and Georgia State playing the Tigers. Auburn hosts the Wilson/DeMarini Classic March 2-4, with UNC-Wilmington, Western Carolina and Western Illinois coming to town.

SEC play opens March 9, as Auburn travels to LSU. The Tigersí first home conference series is against Alabama on March 16-18. Auburn will also host Kentucky (March 23- 25), Tennessee (April 6-8) and Arkansas (April 20-22).

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