Auburn Baseball off to Best Start in Six Years
Auburn Catcher Blake Austin tags out Alabama’s Austen Smith at home plate, during Auburn’s victory in the Capital City Classic March 5,2013.
Despite low expectations from pre season pundits, the Auburn Baseball Team has been playing some pretty good baseball this spring. With a 12-3 record thus far, the Tigers are off to their best start in six years.
Since the football and basketball teams both had historic down seasons, its up to the Baseball Tigers to salvage some respect for the school’s big three sports.
The boys of the diamond have had a particularly good week. On last Tuesday, the Tigers beat archrival Alabama 6-3 in the annual Capital City Classic in Montgomery. Then Sunday’s 6-3 win over Brown gave the Orange and Blue their second series sweep of the season.
With Sunday’s victory, Head Coach John Pawlowski passed former Tiger Coach Steve Renfroe to become the third all-time winningest coach (by wins) in Auburn history with 146.
Yet the best thing about the season so far is the performance of …
the pitching staff. Most thought that the Tiger hitting would be the team’s strength with the Tigers returning four of their top six batters from a lineup that led the SEC in batting averaging last season. However, there were serious question marks for Auburn pitching.
Yet the staff so far has an overall ERA of 2.73 and posted a 2.25 ERA in last week’s 4-0 record. Junior Conner Kendrick started the week off by pitching six shutout innings out of the bullpen in a 6-3 win over Alabama while junior Michael O’Neal continued it with a complete game shutout of Brown.
Kendrick leads the team with 22 strikeouts and has a 0.00 ERA in 16 1/3 innings in six appearances. In addition, he has held opposing batters to a .077 batting average.
O’Neal has only given up two extra base hits in his four wins. He is carrying a 1.40 ERA and has held opponents to a batting average of .204.
Reinforcing the defense is Junior catcher Blake Austin who was recently named to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List. Austin has thrown out five of seven base stealers, giving him a career total 25 caught stealing.
On offense,. Junior Garret Cooper has a slugging percentage of .531, with Blake Austin at .439, and Ryan Tella at .436. Damek Tomscha has now reached base in all 15 games this season and has a .422 on base percentage.
In addition, the Tigers have a freshman sensation in Jordan Ebert. He hit his first home run Friday night and is carrying a 13 game hitting streak. And Jordan leads the team with a .404 batting average.
Now is the time in the season where the Tigers will be tested. Tonight, Auburn gets a chance for revenge of an earlier loss to Kennesaw State in a road game. However, the real season begins Friday when the Tigers open Southeastern Conference play against No. 2 Vanderbilt on Hitchcock Field at Plainsman Park.
Those low pre season opinions were highlighted by the coaches picking Auburn to finish last in the very tough SEC West. However, polls are just that – opinions. The reason you play the game is to see who really is going to win. Admittedly, there is a lot of baseball left to play – but so far, you gotta like the way the Tigers are playing.