Auburn Should Make Next Baseball Coach an Offer He Can’t Refuse

By Posted on: June 12th, 2013 in Baseball, News 8 Comments »
518aaca25ccaa.image- Hal Baird

          Could the next Auburn Baseball coach return the Tigers to the glory days of Hal Baird?

There hasn’t been much news lately on the search for a new Auburn baseball coach. But with the NCAA Tournament over and the College World Series wrapping up in the next 2 weeks, most of the prospective coaches should now be available for interviews.

There has been more than a half dozen names floating around the rumor mill since the dismissal of John Pawlowski. Amongst the fan base there are those that would like to see a big name Division I head man be considered while others are hoping to see fan favorite and Samford Coach, Casey Dunn get the nod.

Count me among those who would be glad to see the former Tiger All-American return as head coach. After taking over a program that had been through 8 losing seasons, his accomplishment’s have been nothing short of phenomenal. The first Samford coach in 40 years to post consecutive winning seasons, has led his team in winning two conference championships, and took the Bulldogs to an NCAA Tournament berth in 2012.

That same year Baseball America named him as their No.2 on their list of top college baseball coaches under 40. Rumors are that the University of Georgia has interest in him as well.

One things for certain, Casey Dunn will be coaching somewhere at a major program in the next few years, he is just too good a coach for that not to happen.

Even though legendary SEC and former Auburn coach Hal Baird has said he thinks there could be no better fit for Auburn, look for Jay Jacobs to pass on Casey, opting instead to make a splash with a big name Division I head coach or at least with a proven assistant from a big school.

Without question, the most prominent big splash would be Vandy skipper Tim Corbin.  However, it’s highly unlikely Corbin would leave the good situation he enjoys in Nashville.

Other names in the rumor mill have included South Alabama’s Mark Calvi, Troy’s Bobby Pierce, Miss State’s pitching coach Butch Thompson, Florida State’s hitting coach Mike Martin, Jr. North Carolina’s pitching coach Scott Forbes and most recently Oklahoma Head Coach Sunny Galloway and the head man at N.C. State, Elliott Avent.

Some think the offer will be made to the highly successful Avent since Jacobs tried to hire him before he eventually turned to Pawlowski back in 2008. What could be the difference between today and 2008 is that Auburn appears to be willing to open the checkbook to get a big time guy. And that’s exactly what’s needed – make a proven winner an offer he can’t refuse.

In the event, that Jacobs isn’t able to land the big fish, there’s still one name that has been out there from the beginning and he’s one of the most highly respected assistants in the country.

Jacobs would absolutely score a home run if he could persuade ….

Arkansas Associate Head Coach Todd Butler to take the reigns of the Tiger program. As a hitting coach, he has a reputation for attracting top talent as well as developing big time hitters.

In seven seasons in Fayetteville, Butler has helped the Razorbacks make it to 2 College World Series appearances, 7 NCAA Regionals, 3 NCAA Super Regionals, and 2 SEC Western Division titles. In addition, as lead recruiter, Butler has put together 5 – top 10 recruiting classes and had 46 players taken in the MLB Draft.

Those familiar with Butler, may think he would not accept an offer since he turned down an invitation last year to join the Texas staff. However this offer would be different.

Texas offered a raise for what was essentially a lateral move. After 20 years in the business, the Auburn job would give him a chance to be a head coach in the SEC. And the Tiger program has the facilities, the fan support, and a good roster foundation to work with.

There’s little doubt in my mind that if Jay Jacobs would make him an offer he couldn’t refuse, Tiger Baseball could return to the glory days of Hal Baird.

Pawlowski Out at Auburn, Jacobs Starts His Third Coaching Search This Year

By Posted on: May 27th, 2013 in Baseball 6 Comments »
2013 SEC Baseball Game 2: Alabama vs Auburn

After Auburn Baseball failed to make the NCAA Tournament today for the third consecutive year, John Pawlowski was fired as the Tigers’ head coach. In making the decision, Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said a change was “necessary to help us achieve the goal” of playing for championships.

The Tigers finished the regular season strong, going 12 – 9 in league play including series wins over Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Florida. But an early exit from the SEC Tournament saw a drop in their RPI rating. That coupled with a poor out of conference schedule prevented them from making the NCAA.

However, it was more than the failure to make the 64-team field that brought about Pawlowski’s dismissal. Auburn has failed to make the NCAA in four of the last five years and only got into the SEC Tournament the last two because of tournament expansion first to 10 and then 12 teams this year.

The Tigers finished 33-23 overall and 13-17 in the SEC. They were 20-5 in non conference games, but only played one team with an RPI of better than 100 (College of Charleston).

Even though Coach Pawlowski came to Auburn with an impressive resume (three league championships and a 338–192-1 record at Charleston) he just couldn’t seem to get the Tigers playing consistently. There have been flashes of good spells but Pawlowski built his teams on Juco transfers and while that’s a formula for short term success; you just can’t sustain a winning program on transfers.

With the exception of the 2010 season when Auburn hosted a regional, the Tigers have finished in the bottom half of the league every year.

This writer has been a supporter of Pawlowski in this space but it became obvious even to this homer that this would be his last year at the helm, if he didn’t get the job done. The truth of the decline in the program since Hal Barid and Steve Renfroe left has been painfully clear.

And so now we wait to see who Jay Jacobs will be choosing as the new baseball coach at Auburn. Early names already surfacing in the rumor mill are former Auburn player and Samford Head Coach Casey Dunn, Troy Head Coach Bobby Pierce. and North Carolina pitching coach Scott Forbes.

No matter whether its one of these early names or someone else, the pressure is on Athletic Director Jay Jacobs to get it right. With the end to what has been the lowest year in Auburn’s major sports coming to a close … there simply are no mulligan’s left for him to hit.

Auburn’s SEC Tournament Run Ends Early

By Posted on: May 21st, 2013 in Baseball 8 Comments »
This has been a hard mentality to sell for Auburn Head Coach, John Pawloski

This has been a hard mentality to sell for Auburn Head Coach, John Pawlowski

Auburn opened and closed its 2013 SEC Championship tournament run on a blistering afternoon in Hoover, Alabama by falling 6-3 to the Crimson Tide. Auburn started out strong plating 3 runs and chasing Alabama’s starter early in the ball game. However, Alabama chipped away at the lead until finally tying the game  in a climactic 6th inning that saw Alabama send 7 men to the plate and score only 1 run. The death blow came in the bottom of the 8th when Alabama’s offense came alive and Auburn’s defense wilted in the heat. The Crimson Tide took a swift 6-3 advantage and never looked back. Auburn quietly exited 1-2-3 in the 9th. 

Once again, Auburn baseball is back to square one and looking for answers. One has to wonder what this means for the future of John Pawlowski and the program overall going forward. 

“This Game is Much Bigger Than AU Baseball”

By Posted on: May 21st, 2013 in Baseball 13 Comments »
28auburn13.jpg

The Auburn Baseball Team is set to play a big game today when they take on Alabama in the first round of the SEC Tournament in Hoover.

As our Senior Editor, Jay Coulter said , “The stakes are pretty high.” A possible NCAA Regional is riding on the game for both teams and with it, at least one coach’s job could be on the line.

In addition, the winner moves on – the loser goes home. And then there’s that other thing … beating your arch rival.

Neither fan base wants to ever lose to the other –  in anything. So it’s a big game, the biggest for both programs all year.

But for Auburn it may be even bigger. As Track ‘em Tigers member Buddy Ro commented here yesterday, ” There are rare opportunities for AU baseball to set the tone of the year for Auburn athletics …

“This game is much bigger than AU baseball.”

After disappointing bottom dweller seasons in the other two major sports, the baseball team carries the weight of redemption for the 2012-2013 athletic year.

While playing in Hoover should be a plus for Alabama, (it will almost be like a home game). the Tide will be facing one of the hottest teams in the league when they go against the Tigers.

Auburn enters the game riding a wave of momentum, having won their last three series against No.18 Ole Miss, No.19 Florida on the road, and No.11 Arkansas at home.

For the most part, the pitching has been there for Auburn all year. It’s the hitting and especially timely hitting that has sparked the remarkable turnaround.

If the Tigers can keep the hot bats going … they will win, keep their NCAA Regional hopes alive, and more importantly finish the Auburn Athletic year on a winning note.

Go Tigers, Beat Bama!

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Editor’s Note:
Auburn will send the SEC Pitcher of the Week, Conner Kendrick (5-3) to the mound and Bama will counter with the guy they believe to be their best hurler, Justin Kamplain (1-0). First pitch will be 30 minutes after the end of the first game (probably around 12:30).

SEC Baseball Tournament Schedule

By Posted on: May 21st, 2013 in Baseball Comments Off
12779359-large- SEC Baseball Tournament logo

The new 12-team SEC Tournament begins today at 9:30 a.m. when No. 6 seed Ole Miss plays No. 11 Kentucky in the first game

Auburn will face Alabama thirty minutes after the first game ends. The two have met four times this year with a split outcome (2-2). The last meeting saw Bama take a 2-0 win at Auburn despite the Tigers only giving up 2 hits.

The pressure will be on as the two rivals are playing to get into the 8-team double elimination second round.

The winner will face No. 2 LSU on Wednesday while the loser goes home and waits to see if they are selected for a NCAA Regional.

SEC Tournament Match Ups:

Tuesday (single elimination)

Game 1: No. 6 Ole Miss vs. No. 11 Kentucky, 9:30 a.m.
Game 2: No. 7 Alabama vs. No. 10 Auburn
Game 3: No. 8 Florida vs. No. 9 Texas A&M, 4:30 p.m.
Game 4: No. 5 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Missouri

Wednesday (double elimination)

Game 5: No. 3 Arkansas vs. Game 1 Winner, 9:30 a.m.
Game 6: No. 2 LSU vs. Game 2 Winner
Game 7: No. 1 Vanderbilt vs. Game 3 Winner, 4:30 p.m.
Game 8: No. 4 South Carolina vs. Game 4 Winner

Thursday (double elimination)

Game 9: Game 5 Loser vs. Game 6 Loser, 9:30 a.m.
Game 10: Game 7 Loser vs. Game 8 Loser
Game 11: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner, 4:30 p.m.
Game 12: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner

Friday (double elimination)

Game 13: Game 9 Winner vs. Game 11 Loser, 3:00 p.m.
Game 14: Game 10 Winner vs. Game 12 Loser

Saturday (single elimination)

Game 15: Game 13 Winner vs. Game 11 Winner, noon
Game 16: Game 14 Winner vs. Game 12 Winner

Sunday (Championship game)

Game 17:
Game 15 Winner vs. Game 16 Winner, 3:30 p.m.

Conner Kendrick Named SEC Pitcher Of The Week

By Posted on: May 20th, 2013 in Baseball 1 Comment »

Conner Kendrick was named the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of theAuburn Baseball
Week today for his performance in last week’s 3-0 victory against the
No. 11 Arkansas Razorbacks.

In pitching Auburn’s first shutout in two years he struck out eight batters while allowing only four hits with one walk in 7 1/3 innings of work.

He has held opposing batters to a .257 batting average and leads the Auburn pitching staff with 74 strike outs.

Coach Pawlowski named him today as the starter against Alabama in tomorrow’s second, first round game of the SEC Tournament.

The Auburn IMG Network will carry the game on its baseball affiliates. And the game will also be broadcast live on FSN as well as on ESPN3.com – but only fans outside of SEC country will be able to view it as the net works will enforce viewing blackouts through out the south.

A Big Day Tomorrow for Auburn Baseball

By Posted on: May 20th, 2013 in Baseball 14 Comments »
513ab60cc8fef.image- Jordan Ebert

Give Auburn baseball coach John Pawlowski credit. In March, he was deader than a gathering of the Jay Jacobs Fan Club.

After starting out 1-8 in SEC play, most believed Pawlowski was destined to bring home Auburn’s third consecutive last place SEC finish in the Big Three sports. It was only a matter of time before former would be inserted into his title.

Now I know college baseball has never caught the imaginations of most Auburn people. Anytime we write a story about it, you can hear the crickets coming from the comments section. But by damned, this team and coaching staff has earned a little ink today.

If you’ve been too busy following football recruiting or cutting the grass, or just taking the trash out, then you’ve missed quite the comeback on the Plains.

Don’t look now, but Auburn is one of the hottest teams in college baseball. Winners of their last three series, two of which were against ranked teams, Auburn has gone 12-9 to close out the regular season.

Auburn dispatched of No. 11 Arkansas 11-6 Saturday afternoon, winning yet another series and finally giving Auburn fans something to cheer for the first time in more than a year.

Talk of a new baseball coach has turned to NCAA Regional play. How fitting that Auburn’s road starts with Alabama on Tuesday in Hoover.

In a win or go home matchup, tenth-seeded Auburn (33-22, 13-17) faces seven-seed Alabama (32-24, 14-14) in a mid-afternoon contest. The Tide lost two of three over the weekend to top-ranked Vanderbilt in Nashville.

The big question is whether Auburn has done enough to punch its ticket for post-season play. Pawlowski is cautious in his assessment.

“We didn’t start off good, but we certainly finished the conference pretty well,” he said. “I think we put ourselves in a very good position, but we have a lot more work to do.”

Both Baseball America and SEBaseball.com have the Tigers bracketed to go. However, a Tuesday loss could make the selection committee forget about Auburn as the week progresses and more conference tournaments are played.

A win over Alabama likely gets the job done.

Auburn catcher Blake Austin says there’s no doubt Auburn’s earned a trip.

“Oh, yeah,” Austin said. “We played three regional teams in a row, top-15 teams. We’re swinging the bats like a regional team, I think. Offensively, it’s like another gear hit since Ole Miss. Pitching has been there all year.”

The bigger question is, has Pawlowski done enough to save his job?

Again, it likely comes down to Tuesday against arch-rival Alabama. It seems unlikely Pawlowski survives if his team fails to earn a regional birth. So yeah, the stakes are pretty high tomorrow.

Count me among those pulling for him. 

At the Game, in the Car, or at Home, Jim Fyffe was Auburn Football

By Posted on: May 15th, 2013 in Baseball, Basketball, Football, News 9 Comments »
861399b83072f26080ba76e4fa3fe7e5- Fyffe

I still remember the sadness that swept over me when Auburn’s legendary announcer Jim Fyffe passed away on May 15, 2003. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. Though I never met the man he was to me and thousands of other Auburn fans, a good friend. Today is the 10th anniversary of his death. He was taken from us way too early.

With no disrespect to Rod Bramlet and other Auburn announcers, there simply will never be another one like Jim Fyffe.

Jim was and still is the most revered radio announcer in the history of Auburn Football. His distinctive voice called the play-by-play for Auburn’s football teams from 1981-2003.

He provided hundreds of memorable calls in his 22 years of calling Auburn Football and Basketball games. But it was more than his voice that endured him to the Auburn Family. Jim had a unique ability to make the listener feel like he was right there beside him, in the booth, jumping up and down as he’s yelling his famous “Touch d o w n … Aub b u r n n n n !”

There was never any doubt in his voice, that Jim was a homer and a man who loved Auburn –  both traits that made his voice synonymous with Auburn Football.

He was gifted in such away that made fans lean in toward the radio and feel like they were actually in the stands viewing the game with him. I will never forget where I was on many of his memorable calls.

Like many reading this article, I could recall dozens of great calls made by Jim over the years; the kind that still brings chill bumps and memories of where I was when I heard him make the call.

One of my many favorites happened on November 4th, 1989. There were 26 seconds to go in the game and Auburn trailed Florida 7-3, facing a 4th down and 11 on the 30 yard line. Quarterback Reggie Slack drops back to pass and hits 5′ 7″ Shayne Wasden in the corner of the end zone to defeat Florida 10-7.

Pandemonium broke out as Jim yelled over the airwaves. “Touchdown Auburn! Touchdown Auburn! Touchdown Auburn! Unbelievable!  I’ve seen the impossible happen! I have seen a miracle!”

That moment and dozens of others like it, are forever frozen in the corners of my mind. Yet, even though I was at the game I could not hear Jim’s call completely because it was the loudest, most exhilarating ending to any game I have ever witnessed at Jordan-Hare. I thought the end zone was going to collapse under the weight of the fans jumping up and down.

It was only after I listened to the tape later that I heard all of what Jim had said. And to this day, I remember everything about that moment when I hear a replay of his words.

At the game, in the car, or at home, Jim was Auburn football. It just doesn’t seem like 10 years since he left us.

—————-

Feel free to share your memory of a great Jim Fyffe moment in the comments.