Before I even begin, I have to say that there's no way I can offer as impressive a retrospective on the 2016 Auburn Softball season as the one that Jerry Hinnen wrote. That is a fantastic look back at the season and what it meant.
So what more can I add? Similar to Jerry, I don't have enough of a background in softball to offer serious analysis. I didn't start really paying a lot of attention to the softball team until late in the 2015 regular season. I remembered Clint Myers' hire and their first run to the Regionals in 2014 and knew they were going to be good, but it wasn't until the SEC Tournament in 2015 that I really started to watch.
I learned something during that post-season. Something reinforced during this year's incredible run through the Women's College World Series: College softball is a whole lot of fun to watch.
The average ground ball in baseball results in an out, it seems. I don't know the specifics in softball, but ground balls are far more likely to result in infield hits in softball. The shorter base paths made the game seem so much faster and every minor mistake is magnified. Because of that, fortunes and games can change in the smallest of moments.
Look no further than Auburn's comeback against Oklahoma in Game 2 of the WCWS. In a way, it's almost a shame that softball has the Mercy Rule because runs can be made up so quickly and momentum swings so fast that you never fully feel comfortable with any score if you're in the lead.
The last two seasons have really made me go from someone only passingly interested in softball because an Auburn team played it to being a full-on Softball Fan.
You can call me a bandwagon fan for that, and you'd be partially correct. Sure, I jumped on the bandwagon when the team started winning. I'm not going to jump off, though. Even with the score 7-0 in that Championship Series and the hour getting late with a 4:40am wake-up ahead of me for PT on Annual Training, I wasn't about to miss a moment. I knew those girls had it in them to come back from anything, and they did just that.
This season gave us so many great moments. Kasey Cooper's walk-off against UGA. The winning streak during SEC play. The SEC Tournament run. Tiffany Howard's home run in the SEC Championship and then her Grand Slam in the NCAA Tournament. The Super Regional doubleheader. The late-inning rallies in the WCWS. The catches. The walk-off Grand Slam. The Jade Rhodes home runs It was all just so much fun.
My heart breaks for the seniors on this team who came so close. As Jerry pointed out in the article above, the difference between Auburn and Oklahoma in that championship series was so small. I would put the difference at one player. Auburn has a staff of VERY good pitchers, but Oklahoma's Paige Parker was just something special. I really think a pitcher with any less skill and Auburn wins the Championship. Hats off to Parker for an amazing performance all season long and particularly in the Championship Series.
Thanks to Jade Rhodes, Emily Carosone, Tiffany Howard, Kelsey Bogaards, Lexi Davis, Marcy Harper, Rachel Walters, Madison Dickey, and Maria Mitchell for your years here at Auburn. We loved watching you play and the legacy you've built.
One thing is for sure. Auburn making it to the Women's College World Series last season was no fluke. Making it this season and going through the winner's bracket to the Championship Series was no fluke. Clint Myers has built something very special at Auburn, and it's only going to get better. The foundation that the 2015 and 2016 teams have built is strong in itself. When you add the Myers Family's coaching ability to it, the possibilities are endless.
If you're an Auburn fan who didn't watch any of this season, be sure to catch them this fall during the fall schedule. Make it to Jane B. Moore for a game next season - if you can get a ticket to games which regularly sell out, now. If there's one great thing about the SEC Network, it's that Softball is so accessible to everyone, now. Almost every game is broadcast, somewhere. Give them a game or two and I guarantee you that you'll be hooked.
2014 was the teaser. 2015 was the preview. With 2016, Auburn Softball announced to the world that it is a power that is here to stay. I, for one, can't wait to see where it goes from here.