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Photo courtesy of Samford Athletics.
Softball v. Furman 3.15
The Samford Bulldogs softball team
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Photo by Kyle Parmley.
Auburn Tiger Madi Gipson will get one more chance to play at her alma mater’s high school field when Samford hosts Auburn at Spain Park High on April 5.
College softball is coming to the high school level.
On April 5, Samford University and Auburn University’s softball programs will square off at Spain Park High School.
The game will mark the second time Spain Park has hosted a college game, also holding a game between Samford and Jacksonville State in 2013.
“Any time you can get two college teams that want to play on your campus, that’s really special,” said Spain Park athletics director Patrick Kellogg.
According to the Bulldogs’ schedule release, Samford is looking to build off its most successful season in program history. The 2016 Samford team posted a record of 40-20 overall and 15-3 in Southern Conference play. Samford won the program’s first SoCon Tournament title and earned the team’s first NCAA Tournament bid.
Auburn also is coming off its most successful softball season in school history, having advanced to the Women’s College World Series, falling to Oklahoma in three games and winning a school-record 57 games overall.
“Each year we play a competitive home and away schedule, with last season being our highest RPI finish in program history,” said Samford coach Mandy Burford. “We play Alabama and Auburn each year, but this year we have decided to play Auburn at a neutral site.”
Last year’s matchup between the two teams was at Samford’s softball field, with an announced crowd of 914, more than the stadium’s capacity. Samford does not charge admission at home games and is taking the opportunity to gain revenue from one of the most anticipated matchups on its schedule.
“This will allow us to charge admission, and both programs will receive a portion of the revenue,” Burford said. “This also allows us to reach a fan base that might not drive across town to watch us play. We are looking forward to the opportunity to play in front of another large crowd against Auburn at Spain Park on April 5 and also against Alabama on April 25 at Samford.”
Spain Park will make their own accommodations for the expected crowd.
“As a precaution, we certainly are going to bring in bleachers,” Kellogg said. “The City of Hoover’s Parks and Recreation always helps us out when we host the Hoover football game.”
Kellogg credited the Lady Jags head coach, C.J. Hawkins, for establishing solid relationships with area college coaches. The game will provide Spain Park and other local players the opportunity to see the college level up close.
“That’ll be special for our softball team so that they can see what the next level looks like, especially two great programs like Auburn and Samford,” he said.
Auburn’s Madi Gipson (Spain Park) and Carmyn Greenwood (Oak Mountain) will get a chance to play close to home, while some future Tigers wait in the high school ranks. Hoover’s Abby Tissier and Spain Park’s Jenna Olszewski (both signed) and Maddie Majors (committed) all plan to play softball on the Plains.