LAFAYETTE — Auburn University’s softball program has not seen the super regional stage before, but their fans are ready to find out about the environment Louisiana-Lafayette has lived in during each of the last three seasons.
“We sold 1,700 tickets in 36 minutes,” Auburn coach Clint Myers said. “They are closing the street and bringing in the big-screen TVs and the tents and they are going to have a party for the people outside the stadium that can’t get in.”
Myers is familiar with the super regional round, having won two national championships at Arizona State: The Cajuns have made their own mark on this stage.
There will be some uncertainty when No. 4 Auburn (52-9) hosts the No. 11 Cajuns (42-10) in Game 1 of the best-of-three series Friday at 1 p.m. at Jane B. Moore Field. The second game in the best-of-three series is scheduled Saturday at 11 a.m. If a third game is needed, it will follow at 2 p.m.
Auburn’s uncertainty comes from a lack of super regional experience.
“The kids are relying on the coaches’ experience,” Myers said. “We talk about the (Women’s) College World Series daily, and we show video about what it’s like. The kids are excited and they are anxiously awaiting (Louisiana-Lafayette) to come in and play to see if we can add to the next chapter.”
Cajuns’ coach Mike Lotief has freshmen in his lineup who will also be introduced to a super regional. He has seen some encouraging steps from shortstop D.J. Sanders and outfielders Aleah Craighton and Kelli Martinez. Craighton is hitting .377 with 11 homers and 44 runs batted in. Martinez is batting .296 and Sanders is at .292. Even when that trio have made outs, consistent contact and competitive at-bats have given Lotief the impression they are ready.
“Our freshmen are coming,” Lotief said. “The reason why they are is the leadership of this team believes in them.”
Both teams enter the super regional ready to take their swings at the plate. Team batting averages are a wash at .346 each. The Cajuns have hit 112 home runs compared to Auburn’s 95, and the Cajuns have 63 steals compared to Auburn’s 25.
Auburn earned credits for being resilient.
These Tigers are 20-7 against ranked teams this year. Tigers’ second baseman Emily Carosone leads that charge with a .483 average, five homers and 31 RBIs against ranked opponents.
“This team has played every inning to its fullest,” Myers said. “We have scored a bunch of runs this year with two outs.”
Myers said he believes a 13-12 win April 18 over national sixth-seeded Alabama was a turning point for the Tigers.
“We were down five and came back and tied it,” Myers said. “We were down five again and came back and tied it. We were down two in the eighth inning and came back and scored three to win it. So this team is figuring out ways to win and that is the sign of a pretty good team.”
The Cajuns counter with senior pitcher Jordan Wallace’s 1.90 earned-run average and 18-5 record. Christina Hamilton is 12-3 with a 2.53 ERA.
Lotief said he is aware of the possibility that this series could produced a high number of runs.
“Auburn has a lot of fight,” Lotief said. “It’s hard to put them away because they can score 5, 6, 7 or 8 runs in an inning. They are not going to beat themselves. We have to beat them.”