Auburn's Kyndall White (1) is greeted at home plate after a homerun in an NCAA Regional Tournament game in 2010.
The Auburn softball team will open the 2011 season at the All-Alabama Classic Tournament this weekend February 12-13, at the Vestavia Hills Sports Complex at Liberty Park in Birmingham. And this could be the year that coach Tina Deese's Tigers make a run at the South Eastern Conference Championship.
The Tigers had a 31-26 overall record last year and made their eleventh SEC Tourney appearance. They finished the season by playing in the school's third consecutive and seventh post season NCAA Tournament. If the numbers put up by last year's group are any indication, the 2011 team is poised to have yet another great year.
The squad will be led by senior in fielder Kyndall White and includes eight starters, three returning pitchers, and five key backups that earned letters in 2010. White is one of four seniors on this year's Auburn roster.
Despite missing 11 games last year with an injury, Kyndall earned Second Team All-SEC honors after hitting .356 with a .485 slugging percentage and an on base percentage of .419, drove in 34 runs including five game winning RBI's, and had 14 home runs (the second most in school history). She ranks seventh in Auburn history with 22 career home runs.
Junior catcher Elizabeth Eisterhold will also be returning. Elizabeth hit 11 home runs in 2010 to give her 18 for her career and tied her for 10th place on the all time Auburn homerun list.
The Tigers set a team record by hitting a home run in 10 consecutive games. They hit 44 home runs as a team; which is another reason to be optimistic about the upcoming season. The team's homerun total was the fourth-best in Auburn history.
Tiger pitching in 2010 had the fourth-lowest ERA in program history (2.23) while issuing the third lowest walks. The 2011 pitching will be led by Senior Angel Bunner who led the team in the fewest walks, Junior Jenee Loree who's 2.22 ERA was one of the best records in the SEC, and Red Shirt Junior Lauren Schmalz who had a 2.26 ERA last season.
With this type of talent returning, coupled with the new recruits, Auburn should be a contender for the 2011 SEC Championship.
Yet the SEC preseason poll conducted by league coaches has Auburn picked to finish third in the West, behind LSU and Alabama. I believe the Tigers have a chance to be much better than that.
After all the 2010 Auburn football team was also picked to finish no better than third in the West ...
And we all know how that worked out.