By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 2013 Southeastern Conference softball tournament takes place Wednesday through Saturday at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Ky. The four-day, 10-team event features a new look this season and the competition is stronger than ever.
SEC Assistant Commissioner Leslie Claybrook, who oversees the sport of softball, sat down with the SEC Digital Network on Wednesday to discuss this year’s tournament in this SEC Q&A.
SEC Digital Network: There are some new aspects to the format of the 2013 SEC Softball Tournament. What is new about this year’s event and what brought about those changes?
Leslie Claybrook: “We are very excited that this year’s tournament expands from an eight-team tournament last year to a 10-team tournament this year. With the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, the SEC got stronger in all sports, but probably none more so than softball. The change to include more teams speaks volumes about the strength of the SEC.”
SEC Digital Network: This year’s SEC Softball Tournament is being played at the brand-new John Cropp Stadium at the University of Kentucky. How will this facility enhance the SEC Softball Tournament?
Leslie Claybrook: “Kentucky has built a fabulous stadium for its softball team, as well as its fans. It’s a tremendous facility that will be a wonderful home for this year’s tournament. I know UK is very excited about showcasing it this week not only for those in attendance at the tournament, but also for those viewing on the ESPN family of networks.”
SEC Digital Network: The SEC regular-season championship came down to the final day of the season and the SEC has five teams ranked in the nation’s top-10. Just how competitive has SEC softball been this year and how do you see that benefitting this year’s tournament?
Leslie Claybrook: “The SEC has had a very competitive regular season, evidenced by the number of things – teams in the tournament, seed order, etc. – that were determined on the last day of the regular season. In addition to conference play, SEC teams play a very competitive non-conference schedule, which prepares them well for the SEC Tournament, as well as the NCAA postseason. It’s not surprising that many of the SEC teams are ranked in the top-10 and many have put themselves in a position to play in the NCAA Tournament. This year’s SEC Tournament will be super competitive with any of the 10 teams having a shot to win it all.”
SEC Digital Network: Every game of this year’s tournament will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks. How does that benefit the SEC, its fans and its student-athletes?
Leslie Claybrook: “Softball has grown exponentially over the last few years and it has been important to the SEC to showcase our softball programs on a national level. Having the tournament on the ESPN networks provides the platform to do this and has given the event unprecedented exposure to a national audience. This exposure brands the SEC programs as national players in the softball world. It has also allowed our programs to move from regional recruiting to recruiting nationally for student-athletes.”
SEC Digital Network: What makes the SEC Softball Tournament such a special and unique event both for the fans and for those participating in the event?
Leslie Claybrook: “The SEC Softball Tournament is a very special and unique event because of the quality of play by our teams and student-athletes. The SEC has tremendous coaches and student-athletes who will be highlighted throughout the tournament. It also provides student-athletes the opportunity to compete for a championship, which is the reason they chose to participate in college athletics.”