Tiffany Howard wasted no time in getting honored this season. In fact, it came before the first pitch was even thrown.
After a 2015 campaign in which the Auburn softball star reeled in award after award, Howard, a Bryan County native, was named to the 2016 Preseason All-Southeastern Conference Team. So far this season, she’s shown that honor won’t be her last. In her first 10 games, the senior outfielder batted .563, scored 17 runs and had nine RBIs, according to AuburnTi
Howard led the team in batting average and runs scored as the Tigers, ranked No. 3, won 10 of their first 11 games.
So far, Howard is on a pace to improve on a junior season that saw her finish as a National Fastpitch Coaches Association third-team All-American and a Capital One College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American third-team pick — among her numerous honors.
Howard said in an interview with the news that ta big part of her success last season was the mental part of her game.
“My confidence level was way better than I’ve ever had before,” she said.
Part of that was repetition, she said, and a different way of slapping the ball at the plate. Howard batted .415 last season, 71st in the nation, as part of her 44th-ranked on-base percentage of .525. Being on base that much led to her crossing the plate a lot; Howard ranked 25th nationally in runs per game at 1.07.
She also gets things done with the glove. Auburn head coach Clint Smith said that when he took over the program in 2013, Howard had a below-average throwing arm. But, her work ethic being what it is — “She’s one of the hardest workers you’ve ever seen,” Smith told the News — Howard became an SEC All-Defensive Team selection last season after leading the Tigers in outfield putouts and assists.
“Defensively, she’s really improved,” Smith said.
The coach also praised Howard’s leadership. Smith said Howard is constantly chatting with the team’s younger players and that she’s an excellent teacher.
“She’s a senior. This is her last hurrah, and again, she’s taking it very seriously,” he said.
Howard, who plans to be a veterinarian and apply to Auburn’s vet school, has one more stop she’d like to make before ending her career. Last season, the Tigers made their first trip to the Women’s College World Series in program history, getting to the semifinals before being eliminated.
This season, they entered as one of the favorites to get back there again.
“We need to maintain high expectations,” she said.