Editor’s Note: Today we welcome another new writer to Track’em Tigers. Jay Gibson, better known to many of you as Big Country, joins the staff and takes a look at this year’s Auburn baseball squad. After a slow start, things are turning around for Tom Slater’s group.
By Jay Gibson
Despite popular belief, Auburn does play another sport besides football. Coach Tom Slater’s Tigers are currently 20-12 (6-6 SEC), which is good enough for second place in the SEC West behind Ole Miss heading into last night’s non-conference home game with Georgia State.
The Tigers are an extremely young squad. There are no seniors on the roster. The starting nine consists of five freshmen, one sophomore, and one junior. The starting rotation is anchored by a redshirt freshman and two true freshmen.
They are a fun team to watch.
If small ball is your game, this is the team for you. Slater loves to bunt and run. In 32 games they have 53 stolen bases. Although they like to run, they aren’t void of power. The team has combined for 24 home runs.
The pitching staff currently boasts a team ERA of 3.93. In case you’re not familiar with NCAA Baseball and aluminum bats, that is excellent.
Here is a glance at the Tigers by position:
Starting Pitchers: The ever changing starting rotation is anchored by red-shirt freshman Grant Dayton. He is followed up by freshmen Cory Luckie and Bradley Hendrix. The three have combined for an 8-4 record with 89 strikeouts in 121 1/3 Innings pitched.
Bullpen: The bullpen has been outstanding this season. The pen has a combined record of 7-3 on the year with a 2.92 ERA and is 10/10 in the saves department.
The pen is anchored by junior closer Bryan Woodall and junior Evan Crawford. Crawford is 3-0 on the year with a 1.16 ERA. Woodall is 0-1 on the year, but is 8/8 in save chances and has a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings.
The pitching staff received a boost over the weekend when Preseason All-SEC selection Paul Burnside returned from an injury he suffered before the season began. Look for him to gain more innings in the pen before returning to the starting rotation.
Infield: The infield stacks up as follows, junior Bryan Jenkins at catcher, freshman Hunter Morris at first, freshman Justin Hargett at second, junior Matt Hall at shortstop, and sophomore Joseph Sanders at third.
Morris was a HUGE pickup for the Tigers. Last June he was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 2nd Round of the MLB Draft out of Grissom High School in Huntsville. He is currently the team leader in batting average at .365, tied for the team lead in home runs (5), and leads the team with 28 RBI’s.
Outfield: The starting outfielders are freshman LF Brian Fletcher, freshman CF Trent Mummey, and junior RF Mike Bianucci.
Bianucci was a Preseason All-SEC selection. He is currently third on the team in batting average at .339 (behind Morris and Fletcher who are hitting .351), tied with Morris with 5 home runs, and second with 23 RBI’s.
For those of you that like 40 times in football, Bianucci (who is listed at 6’1″ 215, but I believe he is closer to 225) runs a 6.5 60 yard dash. Converted to a 40 time, that would be pproximately a 4.4 40 time.
All in all, this is a solid team. To start five freshmen in the field and currently be in second place in the SEC West is no small feat. Auburn stands in good shape to make it to the SEC Tournament in Hoover for the first time since 2005.
They have taken two out of three in all three SEC series against the likes of former #2 Kentucky, a very good Tennessee squad, and Arkansas. This week’s games are all at home.
Tonight’s game against Mississippi Valley State, starts at 6 p.m. CT. Wednesday is Youth Night. All children 17 and under get in free with a cap and a glove.
Friday the Tigers welcome to town #14 South Carolina for a three game set. Game times are 6 p.m. CT Friday, 3 p.m. CT Saturday, and 2 p.m. CT on Sunday.
Come out and support Auburn baseball.