Last weekend, Auburn Baseball went into Baum stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas with a 7-11 conference record facing elimination from the SEC Tournament. The Tigers had to take care of business in order to be in contention. After taking two of three against the Razorbacks, Auburn put themselves back in the picture.
But Head Coach Sunny Golloway’s plans were to take his first Auburn team further than Hoover, Ala. His preseason goals had been to take Auburn to the College World Series. Is that still possible for a 25-20 team with just 11 games left to play? The short answer is yes. However, it will take more gutsy performances like last weekend to pull it off.
The Tigers snapped an SEC four series slide when they split the first two one run games, taking the second game into extra innings before falling to a walk-off single in the 10th. Auburn’s offense then came alive with eight hits in game three for a 7-2 victory over the Hogs. It was a crucial road series win, especially coming at this juncture.
To split those two run games was important since the Tigers had lost three of four of their last league series because of a failure to finish out. While close games are a part of baseball, especially in this era of dumb down bats, the difference between being in the post season and sitting at home are winning your share of the close ones.
Golloway still feels good about Auburn’s chances. He says they are finally putting it together in a season that could best be described so far as up and down. “We tried a lot of things early … different guys in the three slot in the pitching rotation … different lineups,” said Golloway. “I think our players are understanding our philosophy and we’re understanding our players a lot better.”
And none too soon either, as the Tigers begin the last of their three SEC series tonight at 6p.m. when Mississippi State comes to town. The Bulldogs (28-18, 11-10 SEC) are ranked No.23 in the nation. On the surface it might look like the Dogs would have the advantage. However, the Tigers have the weapons to get the job done.
A few things in their favor are:
* Auburn is 40-30 in games played vs. MSU in Plainsman Park and have won the last four home series against State, going back to 2008.
* Sophomore Jordan Ebert is the third-leading hitter in the Southeastern Conference with a .364 batting average.
* Senior RHP Dillon Ortman is tied for the most wins in the SEC with an 8-2 and 5-1 conference record.
* Auburn’s weekend starting rotation has an ERA of 2.27, which ties for 11th-best in the nation and Auburn’s team ERA of 2.86 is the best Tiger ERA in nearly 40 years.
* And finally, Auburn did not commit an error in the entire three-game series at Arkansas.
Hopefully the Tigers can take the momentum from the Arkansas series into their last three SEC matchups and finish out on a high note. An NCAA Regional appearance is still not out of the question. But it will take some consistent error free ball to make that dream come true.
Go Tigers Beat the Bulldogs
Fans can catch the games on the Auburn IMG Radio Network. For a list of the affiliates, click here.
Saturday’s game will be televised by CSS with Matt Stewart and Joe Beckwith will make the calls and it will be available online at ESPN3.com.
Game 1 - Tigers give up a 3-0 loss after leaving seven runners stranded, five of them with one out. Keegan Thompson gets the start for the 6p.m. Saturday game.
Game 2 - Auburn’s offense stymied in second 3-0 loss to MSU. Tigers will try to avoid the sweep in Sunday’s 1p.m. game.
Game 3 - Auburn’s postseason hopes took a major blow in game three when Miss State pounded out 19 hits and beat the Tigers 12-1. Giving up the sweep to the Dogs may have jeopardized Auburn’s chances to even make it to the SEC Tournament, let alone play in the College World Series.
Auburn will face Bethune College next on Tuesday at 6 p.m. before traveling to Kentucky on Friday.
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