“The Lure of College Softball” Written By Bill Plummer
OKLAHOMA CITY — Each year thousands of thousands of college softball games are played. Only a handful are played on the nation's biggest stage where the Elite Eight fight it out for the NCAA National Championship.
With this the 25th anniversary of the NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma, the Auburn-UCLA game Saturday showed a national TV audience and more than 9,000 fans the lure of Division One softball.
The game matched 11 time national champion UCLA against Auburn, which was an upstart and never in its history had qualified for the Women's College World Series. But that all changed when Auburn went out and got the Myers' clan, headed by Dad Clint, along with his two sons two years ago.
The first year Auburn won 42 games. This year, Auburn surprised the softball masses by winning a Super Regional to earn a berth in the 34th annual Women's College World Series. Myers was named SEC Coach of the Year and it marked only the second time in program history that an Auburn softball coach won the award. Tina Deese, who Myers replaced as head coach, won the award in 2002.
The Tigers finished second in the conference before winning the SEC Tournament in extra innings to beat Tennessee 6-5. The Tigers also met the Lady Vols in the WCWS this year and again beat them 4-2 earlier Saturday in an elimination game. The Lady Vols were the first team eliminated from the eight-team field.
How Auburn did this year might have turned some heads just as much the game Saturday did that took 4:13 minutes to complete and decide which team would play defending national champ Florida in Sunday's semi-finals. Auburn wasn't expected to advance to the World Series let alone set a school record for wins and qualify for the WCWS for the first time in school history. Auburn started its softball program in 1997.
But where ever Myers has coached he's had the Midas touch and turned programs around. But to turn a program around in two years is amazing and I'm sure is not what most softball people expected the Tigers would do this year.
But just as those many softball followers didn't expect the Tigers to topple the Bruins, who were back in OKC after a five-year drought or since it won its 11th national title in 2010, those close to the Auburn and Myers knew otherwise because Myers' teams don't quit no matter what.
When the Tigers fell behind 5-0 going into the bottom of the third, they didn't fall by the wayside. They went out and scored six times and continued to fight throughout the marathon before winning 11-10 in 10 innings on a bases loaded walk.
The grit and determination of the Auburn team is what many softball fans identify with concerning Division One softball and the Auburn program is going to get better in the years ahead as are other programs seeking to land a berth in the Women's World Series, the biggest stage in Division One softball.
And oh yes, Auburn gave Florida all it wanted in Sunday's semis before losing 3-2 in extra innings. The Tigers out-hit Florida but left too many runners on base, 14 to nine, and didn't get the key hit when it needed it to win. As it was the Tigers finished fourth and set a school record for wins.
Myers said he was proud his pitchers limited Florida to five hits. The problem was on the other side: Auburn left 14 runners on base.
“We had opportunities,” Myers said. “Next year's team, we'll cash in on that opportunities. We came up a little short.”
“We will be back,” said Myers.”I'm really proud of what they accomplished and how they accomplished it.”
They did it with grit and hard-nosed play and never giving up or quitting no matter what.
|Bill Plummer A graduate of Indiana University, Ind. Bill has been involved in softball for more than four decades. For 30years he was a fixture at the ASA National Office as a communications coordinator, manager of the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame and historian. In addition, he also served as the editor of the ASA official newsletter, The Inside Pitch, and as the Trade Show Manager. He has written widely about the sport and has contributed to 14 books. In 2009, he authored “The Game America Plays.” In 2012, he co-authored “Best of the Best-Women’s Fastpitch.” In 2014, ” A Series of Their Own. The History of the Women's College World Series.” He has been elected to five halls of fame, including the ASA National. In 1996, he served as the Information Manager for the debut of softball in the Olympics.|
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