Can Auburn Baseball Make a Case for the Postseason?
Michael O’Neal is on track to be the Tigers first 10 game winner since 2003.
After the Auburn Baseball team plays Samford tonight in Birmingham, the last half of the SEC Baseball season will begin on Thursday. And despite winning their last two series, the Auburn Tigers have a mountain to climb if they want to play in the post season.
Even though Auburn sports a 17-4 non conference record, the Tigers began the SEC season at a dismal 0-7, the worst conference start since 2007.
But after winning the series with No.17 Texas A&M in College Station, the Tigers won for the seventh time in eight games and fourth time in six Southeastern Conference games this past weekend when they took two of three from Georgia at home.
It was a shot in the arm to win consecutive SEC series after winning just one game in the first three series. However, Georgia has one of the worst teams in recent years and Auburn really should have swept the Dawgs. A sweep would have gone a long way in making up lost ground from the first half of the season.
While the pitching staff led by Michael O’Neal (7-2) has done a good job with a team ERA of 3.33 (the lowest mark at this point in the season since 2002) – the offense has struggled. It was the lack of offense that prevented the Tigers from getting the sweep against Georgia.
Auburn had a combined 25 hits in its two victories against the Bulldogs on Friday and Saturday but could only muster three in the last game of Saturday’s double header.
In the first half of the season, John Pawlowski became the Tigers’ all-time third Winn ingest baseball coach (by number of wins.) Yet Auburn finds itself in the familiar position of possibly not making the NCAA. Because of it, some believe Pawlowski will be on the hot seat if …
… the Tigers fail to make it to the NCAA tournament. The mid-season record of 22-14 and 5-10 in the SEC is not a bad record per se but it doesn’t get any easier from here on out.
Nine of the 15 remaining SEC games will be on the road, including series against No.16 Mississippi State this weekend and No. 7 Florida in the season final. The Tigers must also face No.10 Arkansas and No.18 Ole Miss at home. To have a chance to get into an NCAA regional, Auburn needs to at least split those remaining series.
After winning the SEC West three years ago and hosting a regional, Auburn has narrowly missed making the NCAA field the last two years. A sweep of at least one opponent would not only improve their record and enhance their chances, but would do wonders for their confidence. That prospect is doable although it will be a tall task.
The good news though, is the Tigers control their own destiny. At the midpoint of the conference season, they are in 11th place. Still, before all is said and done there could be a lot of rearranging in the conference standings with 15 games left to play.
I still believe it’s possible for the Tigers to wind-up with a good year – an SEC/NCAA postseason year. But the metal of Pawlowski‘s Tigers is about to be really tested.
Will they finish strong and propel themselves into the SEC and NCAA Tournaments? Or will they wilt into a near miss team once again? The fate of their future and quite possibly John Pawlowski’s may hinge on it.
Go Tigers beat Samford and MSU!