Photo courtesy of Auburn University Athletics.
Madi Gipson is the Tigers’ starting right fielder, after redshirting last season.
The Auburn University softball program has changed dramatically in the past three years, and a local trio has played a big part in the revival.
Marcy Harper, Madison Dickey and Madi Gipson all hail from the city of Hoover — Harper and Dickey played at Hoover High, Gipson at Spain Park — and are all dynamic parts of the current Tiger program that is capable of making another run to the College World Series this season.
Clint Myers took control of the Auburn program before the 2014 season, bringing with him a pedigree that included two national championships at his previous coaching stop, Arizona State University. In two seasons, he guided the Tigers to an NCAA Regional in 2014 and advanced to the Women’s College World Series in 2015.
“I honestly didn’t know anything about him,” said senior pitcher Marcy Harper, who was already at Auburn before Myers arrived. “But from the beginning, they said we had to trust him, and that’s what we’ve done. It’s been great.”
Harper played her freshman season under the previous coaching regime and said she is amazed at what has come of her college career, now playing on one of the top teams in the country.
“It’s been such a blessing. It’s been an amazing ride,” she said.
Gipson planned on coming to Auburn long before Myers arrived on the Plains — she grew up an Auburn fan — but her freshman season coincided with the program’s new coach. In her freshman season, she started 13 games at first base and redshirted her sophomore year. This season, as a redshirt sophomore, she finds herself starting in right field for the Tigers.
“When you’re on the bench, you get a whole new perspective about things … You really learn the game differently,” she said of her redshirt season. “I’m doing good. Every day is a journey, but I’m improving every day, and that’s my goal.”
Dickey came to Auburn in 2015 after spending three years at Samford University. Her career got off with a bang — she was named to the 2012 SoCon All-Freshman team — before suffering a knee injury the following year. She provides a wealth of talent and experience to the Tigers.
All three were nothing shy of dominant in high school. “Two of the best we ever had,” said former Hoover coach Jim Brown, about Harper and Dickey. “They were both great players and great people.”
On Gipson, Spain Park coach C.J. Hawkins said, “Madi was a fierce competitor and relentless worker. She was fundamentally sound and a complete player.”
Dickey “had one of the best years that we’ve ever had any player have,” according to Brown, in her junior season at Hoover. She hit for an even .500 batting average with 96 hits. She also blasted 19 home runs and led the team in runs batted in from the leadoff spot.
Harper is known for her arm at Auburn, but she possessed just as much thump in the bat with the Bucs. Her senior campaign was nothing short of remarkable, as she posted a 26-8 record and 0.87 earned run average in the pitching circle and hit .415 with nine home runs and 42 RBIs.
Gipson put together a fine senior season at Spain Park as well. She had a .521 slugging percentage, 25 RBIs, 36 runs, three home runs and a .397 on-base percentage.
“We knew they were special when they were in high school and it would carry over to the college level,” Hawkins said.
The three will be key pieces if Auburn is to duplicate last year’s WCWS run, where the Tigers lost to LSU, defeated Tennessee and UCLA, and was eliminated by Florida.
The mental hurdle of getting past Florida was dealt with when No. 3 Auburn faced No. 1 Florida in the first SEC series of the year. The Gators won the first two games, which were both tight contests. Auburn came back to win the third game, showing the resilience to battle despite facing a top-flight opponent.
“It was super exciting to see our team keep up the energy throughout the Florida series,” Harper said. “If that carries on throughout the rest of the season, it’s only going to build from here.”
The SEC Tournament begins May 11, and the Tigers will look to continue playing through the beginning of June in the WCWS. Dickey, Harper and Gipson will certainly play a role in determining that.