Emerging Auburn, powerhouse Alabama heading to WCWS
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) Clint Myers has swiftly fulfilled his promise to take Auburn to the Women's College World Series while Alabama and Patrick Murphy are making one of their frequent visits.
The two in-state rivals - one fast-rising program and one more traditional power - represent a quarter of the eight-team field at the World Series beginning Thursday in Oklahoma City. No. 4 seed Auburn (54-9) and sixth-seeded Alabama (47-13) are on opposite sides of the bracket and wouldn't meet before the championship game.
Auburn (54-9) opens with LSU, the only team to beat them in the last 13 games. Alabama (47-13) faces Michigan Thursday night.
The Tigers, who won the SEC tournament, had never made it to a super regional before sweeping Louisiana-Lafayette starting with a five-run rally in the seventh inning of the first game.
Myers isn't the least bit surprised. He's been there and done this even if none of his players have. The second-year Auburn coach led Arizona State to two NCAA titles and seven World Series appearances in eight years.
''The first time I met the team at Arizona State and the first time I met the team at Auburn, I said, `Ladies, we're going to the College World Series. We're not here to rebuild. We're here to win, and we're going to start winning from Day One,''' Myers said. ''And our practices are going to reflect that mentality.''
It's certainly no surprise the Crimson Tide made it this far. This is Alabama's 10th World Series appearance, winning the national title in 2012 and finishing second to Southeastern Conference rival Florida last season.
The Tide also had to manufacture its own super regional comeback after losing the opening game to Oklahoma. Marisa Runyan snapped an 0-for-13 slump with a sixth-inning grand slam with two outs in the sixth inning to wipe out a 3-1 deficit in Game 3.
Freshman Alexis Osorio threw 20-plus innings for the Tide over the weekend.
''For us, our theme of the year has been grit since August 25,'' Murphy said after the decisive Game 3. Chaunsey Bell got her teammates bracelets reading ''GRIT'' and, said Murphy, ''I've been wearing mine ever since.''
While Auburn was a newcomer to the super regionals, Alabama is the only team to make it that far every season since the round was created in 2005.
Runyon has tied Charlotte Morgan's single-season Tide record with 79 RBIs while hitting 19 homers. Osorio (21-8, 1.64) ERA and Sydney Littlejohn (16-1, 1.49) have been dominant on the mound.
Auburn's Emily Carosone and Alabama's Haylie McCleney are tied for the league lead in hitting with .453 averages. Carosone is also first in RBIs (80) and runs scored (85) for the SEC's top offensive team.
The Tigers' 12-1 stretch started after losing a home series to the Tide and allowing 31 runs in the three games. Auburn has given up just 39 runs in the 13 games since then.
''After the Alabama game, we really tried to turn some things around defensively and pitching-wise,'' Myers said. ''Our pitching has been extremely good since then.
''As long as we have life, we're fighting. Now they're believing all we have to do is play Auburn softball. It's difficult to say when it happened but there's clearly a belief system that they have right now that they're going to win.''