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.