“This Game is Much Bigger Than AU Baseball”

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

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

Time is Running Out for Tigers

By Posted on: May 15th, 2013 in Baseball 1 Comment »
513ab60cc8fef.image- Jordan Ebert

Last week the Auburn Baseball team had a great week going 4-1 including consecutive SEC series wins over No.18 Ole Miss and No.19 Florida.

On Tuesday of that week, Auburn was trailing Jacksonville State 8-0 in the top of the 8th. Then the Tigers mounted a furious rally (with their biggest scoring inning in 13 years) to come from behind and beat the Gamecocks 12-8 giving Coach John Pawlowski his 500th career victory.

The Florida wins  moved Auburn to a half a game out of ninth place in the SEC and secured the Tigers fourth straight SEC Tournament appearance. To be sure, it was a big week for Auburn Baseball. The Tigers finally looked like the team representative of the talent on the roster.

As big a week as it was … this, the final week may be even bigger. Although Auburn secured their spot in the conference tournament, the goal as it is every year, is to at a minimum – play in an NCAA Regional.

The Tigers are one of three SEC Teams that are most likely on the bubble for making a regional (the other two being Bama and Kentucky). They hurt those chances last night when they lost a home game to Jacksonville State.

Auburn has come from behind 20 times this season including last week’s barn burner at JSU. But this time it couldn’t find a way to make it happen, losing to the Gamecocks 6-1 and damaging their case for making the NCAA post season.

The previous week’s record improved the Tigers RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) from 56 to 28. Twenty eight is a strong RPI and that’s what’s needed for a bubble team to get serious consideration from the NCAA selection committee. The Jax State loss will certainly hurt that rating.

Auburn’s pitching staff  has performed well enough this year with a staff ERA of 3.37. While the offense had been in a slump, the bats really came alive last week, especially with clutch hitting. Of the 15 runs Auburn scored at Florida, 12 of them came with two outs. And the 31 wins for the season already equal what the team finished with in 2012. However,  what matters the most to the selection committee are wins and RPI.

Auburn plays their final series Thursday through Saturday against Arkansas. The Tigers have got to win at least two games to strengthen their position for the post season.

Last year Auburn missed the NCAA due to a low RPI. So this final series is critical both for seeding in the SEC Tournament and for keeping their hopes alive for their first Regional since 2010.

With three games left against the No.11 Razorbacks, time is running out for the Tigers, it’s now or never.

Go Tigers, Beat dem Hogs!

“What Comes Next Sits Squarely on My Shoulders.”

By Posted on: May 14th, 2013 in Baseball, Basketball, Football, News, Other Sports 12 Comments »
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Auburn A.D. Jay Jacobs says he has a plan … a plan to improve the athletics department including how to turnaround the lack of winning in the big three major sports.

Speaking before the Auburn Chamber of Commerce today, Jacobs said that University President Jay Gogue has made it clear that he has high expectations for the athletic department. And he told the business  leaders, “I intend to meet them.”

After meeting with Dr. Gogue , Jacobs said, he is aware that, “What comes next sits squarely on my shoulders.” 

“We have much work to do, but I’m convinced that our best days are not behind us … I will continue to defend Auburn, and I will continue to push us to get better every day.” 

Without giving any details, he said he has a plan for improving the overall operations, enhancing the game day experience, improving facilities, and improving “how we interact and communicate with fans and alumni.”

Part of his plan is to act on future recommendations of the consulting firm ,JMI Sports, which was hired by the Universirty to complete a year long intensive evaluation of Auburn athletics.

He was vague about how he expects to turnaround the poor performance of Auburn’s major sports other than pointing out the enthusiasm surrounding the football program since the return of Gus Malzahn.

He said Tony Barbee must win in basketball but pointed out it took former coaches Sonny Smith and Cliff Ellis 5-7 years to make the NCAA Tournament.

To be fair, facilities have improved tremendously under his watch, more student athletes are achieving at a higher level, and there hasn’t been a major NCAA violation in over 20 years.

However, as important as all those things are, and they are very important, winning at a tradition rich place like Auburn has to improve and improve significantly.

Saying he knows that the football and basketball teams were a disappointment this year, he added, “I want to be clear that regardless of how well we are performing across our other goals, I know how important winning is to our fans.”

Sounds like this whole process has made Jacobs aware that it’s not just coaches who may be on the hot seat but the Athletic Director as well. I believe all Auburn people want to see things improve on the Plains but if that doesn’t happen … then it’s like Jay said today, “What comes next sits squarely on (his) shoulders.”

The Report Is In – Gogue Expects Jay Jacobs to Make Necessary Improvements

By Posted on: May 13th, 2013 in Baseball, Basketball, Football, News, Other Sports 8 Comments »

gogue2- jay GogueThe much awaited report of the committee on Auburn Athletics has given their report to University President Jay Gogue.

Dr Gogue had charged the committee to take a look at five criteria for evaluating the athletic department: (1) academic and support services for student-athletes, (2) financial management, (3)customer service, (4) competition, including winning, sportsmanship and compliance, and (5) management structure.

In an open letter to the Auburn Family, Dr Gogue voiced support for Jacobs and the Athletic department while at the same time saying he expects “improvement in the overall operations,” and the upgrading of, “how we interact and communicate with fans and alumni, and enhance the game-day experience, on and off the field.”

There has been increased interest this year in the President’s evaluation of Jacobs and the Athletic Department due to the most dismal two years of Auburn sports in recent memory.

While new Auburn Women’s Basketball Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy took her team to the WNIT and the Equestrian team won another National Championship , the major sports have not had a good year. In addition, since Auburn won the BCS Championship two years ago, the big three major sports have struggled.

The basketball team has been terrible, football  had it’s worst season in 60 years and the baseball team has not made an NCAA Baseball Tournament since winning the West in 2010. Barring Pawlowski’s Tigers winning the SEC Tournament (an extreme longshot), Auburn will finish the year without winning a conference or division championship for the first time in 20 years.

The alumni and fans have been waiting to see if Dr Gogue takes any action. In his public response to the committee’s report he said:

“There’s much to celebrate about Auburn Athletics, but there’s also room for substantial improvement. I look forward to Jay providing the leadership needed to make the necessary improvements.”

Everyone agrees there is plenty of “room for substantial improvement” and Gogue says that, Jacobs will “talk more about what’s in store.”  He is scheduled to speak to the Auburn Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning. Wonder if we will hear what he plans to do to make those “necessary improvements”

Readers can view Dr Gogue’s open letter after the jump:

Dear Auburn family,

The committee I appointed to review operations of Auburn Athletics as part of the Department’s annual evaluation has provided its findings. I’m grateful to members of the committee for their hard work, good thinking and dedication to helping Auburn Athletics move forward.

We asked the committee to review the Department’s total body of work with a focus on five areas: academic and support services for student-athletes; financial management; customer service; competition, including winning, sportsmanship and compliance; and management structure.

Athletics Director Jay Jacobs and I have talked in length about their recommendations. In general, they center on steps to improve overall operations of the Department, upgrade how we interact and communicate with fans and alumni, and enhance the game-day experience, on and off the field. Jay will talk in more detail about what’s in store, and I’m confident he will move forward to put in place a plan to give the Auburn family what we all expect.

There’s much to celebrate about Auburn Athletics, but there’s also room for substantial improvement. I look forward to Jay providing the leadership needed to make the necessary improvements.

War Eagle!

Jay Gogue