In order to make it to the CWS finals, Auburn is going to have to defeat some very familiar foes. Auburn's half of the bracket consists of the Tigers and three other SEC teams. Two of them Auburn has already faced, this season.
This is a double-elimination tournament played along the same lines as the Regional was, so it's hard to know exactly what the path will look like. Auburn never faced Tennessee-Chattanooga in the Auburn Regional, because the Mocs lost both of their games and were eliminated. So, Auburn may not face all three teams in their CWS bracket. In fact, I hope they don't. That would mean the Tigers cruised through the winner's bracket.
Since we can't predict which of the teams Auburn will play, let's just take a look at each of the teams.
We know a good bit about the Bayou Bengal Tigers, since Auburn played them in an early May series down in Baton Rouge. The Tigers took that series by winning the Friday and Saturday games in one-run affairs, but dropped the final game on Sunday 7-1. One of those games was a strange one where Auburn was one-hit, but that one hit was a Haley Fagan home run for the 1-0 victory.
Prior to that game, I believe LSU had only lost one home game the whole season. Auburn took 2 out of 3. That's a pretty big deal, and the point where I really started to believe this team could make a serious run deep into the CWS and compete for the big prize.
LSU finished the regular season fourth in the SEC Regular Season Softball standings behind Alabama, Auburn, and Florida. They had a 15-9 conference record, so we know they're a bit more vulnerable away from home. Auburn has to have a good bit of confidence going into this game knowing they took that series in Baton Rouge.
We know LSU folks love to travel, so I imagine they'll have a pretty good crowd there. Auburn folks will travel, too, but softball is still new enough that I wonder just how well Auburn will travel this season. I hope there's a sizable contingent of Auburn Tigers there to cheer our ladies on.
Should Auburn defeat LSU, their most likely opponent will then be the SEC Regular Season Champion Florida Gators. The Gators finished a bare .5 game ahead of Auburn for that regular season title. Auburn's final regular season loss to LSU in that 7-1 game was the difference between the two clubs.
The Gators finished the regular season 18-5 in the SEC and 55-6 overall. They were bounced from the single-elimination SEC Tournament by Tennessee (their foe in the first game of the CWS), but their overall record this season was fantastic. Oh, and they're also the defending CWS Champions.
Auburn and Florida did not meet on the diamond this season. It's hard for me to judge just how the two teams match up. I don't know enough about Florida, since I only really started following softball with Auburn this season, and I wasn't paying as close attention to the rest of the SEC. The Gators swept Auburn in Gainesville last season, but this Auburn team is not last year's Auburn team (and those games were still pretty close).
I really want to see this match-up, and I want to see Auburn win it in order to settle the score of who the best in the SEC is. We'll find out whether Auburn will face the Gators by tomorrow afternoon.
Auburn is very familiar with the Vols. Auburn took the regular season series from them with Friday and Sunday wins, and also defeated Tennessee in the final game of the SEC Softball Tournament to take the Tournament Championship.
That SEC Tournament final was a very tough game for Auburn. It was one of the Tigers' many dramatic come back victories in the final inning. If there's one thing our ladies have shown this season it's that they never give up and fight hard until the very last out. More often than not, they've come out victorious.
Tennessee defeated Florida 2-1 in the SEC Tournament, but did not play them during the regular season. They did drop the regular season series to LSU in Baton Rouge, though. The Vols finished 5th in the SEC regular season standings, right behind LSU. The Top 5 schools in the final SEC regular season standings are all still playing as the CWS begins on Thursday, and that's pretty impressive. The PAC12 has two teams in, and the B1G one.
As noted before, this is just like a Regional. If Auburn wins tomorrow, they will play the winner of Florida vs Tennessee. Win that one and they face the winner of the loser's bracket and will need to be defeated twice. If, however, the Tigers lose to LSU, they will play the loser of UF vs UT and then the loser of LSU and the winner of UF vs UT for a chance to make it to the final game of the bracket, where they will need two wins against the winner of the Winner's Bracket. Then they would play a best of three series against the winner of the other bracket. Confused? Don't be, it's all laid out in graphic form right here:
The Tigers play Game 1 vs LSU tomorrow at 1:30pm CDT. Go get 'em, Ladies!