Tudor, Nunn preview upcoming Athens Regional

Amy+Tudor+%28Provided%29

Credit: WKU Athletics

Amy Tudor (Provided)

Jake Moore, Sports Editor

WKU Softball head coach Amy Tudor and redshirt junior pitcher Shelby Nunn sat down with the media on Tuesday to discuss the Hilltoppers’ upcoming trip to Athens, Georgia for the Athens Regional.

The Hilltoppers’ first taste of tournament action will come against the Georgia Bulldogs (29-21), (7-17, SEC) on Friday at 1:30 p.m. CT. The Hilltoppers faced the Bulldogs in Georgia the last time they reached an NCAA Regional back in 2015.

“We’re looking forward to going back to Georgia,” Tudor said. “It’s been a while but it does feel a little bit like deja vu that we got placed there again, but they were great hosts last time. We’re looking forward to going back.”

“Obviously they’re a great school, especially being in the SEC and they got an at-large bid,” Nunn said. “We know that they’re a really solid team, I think taking the mindset of having that confidence of these past games and just saying ‘hey, we can do this, we can play with anybody’.”

The other two teams competing in the Athens Regional are the no.13 seed Duke Blue Devils (42-10), (26-10, ACC) and the UNC-Greensboro Spartans (34-15), (14-4, SOCON). Both Duke and the Spartans won their conference tournaments to secure bids to the regional.

“Obviously preparing for all of them is what we have to do,” Tudor said when asked about scouting the other members of the regional. “We’ll have scouts on the other teams but our primary focus will be on Georgia.”

Tudor also outlined a few key things her squad will need to focus on when it comes to tournament time on Friday.

“I think one of the biggest things is playing free and playing loose and being ourselves, no matter who we’re playing,” Tudor said. “And doing the little things right. In the last conference game we had four errors and we have to play clean defense. We have to hit the ball and be strong in the circle.”

The Hilltoppers gained some valuable experience during the regular season by facing three other SEC opponents in Kentucky, Mississippi State and Florida. Nunn explained that those matchups should boost confidence heading into the regional.

“I think it’ll help us a lot, having that experience, especially early in the season,” Nunn said. “Obviously we beat Kentucky and then we hung in there with Florida, which is obviously one of the top teams in the nation… we can do the thing.”

Tudor also talked about the health of her squad heading into the regional. Redshirt freshman Taylor Sanders has been battling an injury during the back half of the season but appeared in all five of WKU’s games in the Conference USA Softball Championship.

“I don’t think Taylor Sanders will be at 100%,” Tudor said. “But I think she will be able to play. I thought she did a great job in our Conference USA tournament, coming back after sitting out for so long. She has a great presence, obviously she showed up with her bat. I think you’ll see her.”

Tudor was less positive about the outlook of redshirt senior pitcher Kelsey Aikey, who made a one-inning relief appearance against FAU on May 7 but did not see the circle during the C-USA tournament.

“As far as Kelsey Aikey, I’m not 100% sure. Obviously it’s frustrating for her and disappointing being her senior year, I think that would be very difficult if I put myself in her shoes,” Tudor said. “She’s been a huge part of our program and a huge part of our success this year so it’s kind of had to flip a role for her, going from being in the circle to big-time supporter… she can’t help her injuries, just like Taylor [Sanders] can’t or Jordan [Thomas].”

The Hilltoppers play the Bulldogs at 1:30 p.m. CT on Friday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 and the full NCAA bracket can be found here.

Sports Editor Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.