Do or Die Time for Auburn Baseball
Casey Mize and the Auburn pitching staff have got to return to early season form this weekend against Ole Miss (photo: Au media file)
What has happened to Auburn Baseball in the span of two weekends is simply staggering. Two weeks ago, the No. 4 Tigers faced a dire situation in the third game of a series against their cross-state rival. After a 6 1/2 hour slugfest the Tigers trailed the Tide 11–9 in the top of the 15th inning. In the bottom half Auburn had two on with nobody out and couldn’t bring the runners home. The lost series, and especially that game, took a toll on Butch Thompson’s squad.
The Auburn skipper said afterwards he took the blame for the loss, but injuries to key players have played a significant role in the Tigers’ slide. Since the end of April, Thompson has had to shift his lineup around to try to play through injury issues.
Run production in particular has fallen off while shortstop Luke Jarvis has been nursing a back injury. Before missing a game against Mississippi State at the end of April, the junior was batting a timely .293 with 11 runs, three doubles, three home runs and nine RBIs. His hitting was often a catalyst for the rest of the team. Since his problems developed, even Josh Anthony and Jeremy Johnson have noticeably struggled.
Pitcher Daniel Robert was dealing with arm soreness and was moved to the designated hitter role, forcing Thompson to take freshman Conor Davis, who had been hitting .298, out of the lineup.
Yet, the biggest issue was that of the ace pitching duo, Casey Mize and Keegan Thompson, also not being at a 100 percent. “When they’re not at 100 percent it’s tough for us,” Thompson said. “”Them being at 100 percent is probably why we’ve won six conference weekends, and we’ll try to go for our seventh [against Ole Miss], but you hope they could turn the corner and get back.”
Of course a team is more than a couple of players, but when it loses both its best pitching and some of the best hitting at the same time, a slide is almost certain to occur. The problem was no one expected, least of which the players, to be swept by a last place Bama squad. Without question, that’s where the Tigers confidence was so shaken that it resulted in a downward spiral that has seen the Tigers lose the last seven games and fall from No. 4 in the nation to No. 24.
Prior to the Bama series, Auburn was sitting atop the SEC and looked like a strong candidate to host an NCAA Regional. There was even talk of a Super Regional. Now the Tigers just hope to get a bid, and even that may depend on a strong showing in the SEC Tourney.
“We have to have better at bats. The offense has slowed down some since the two weekends at Arkansas and Mississippi State,” Thompson said. “This team will have to step up with some urgency at home with Ole Miss.”
“Urgency” is the right word for it’s do or die time for the Tigers.
Auburn (32–21, 14–13) will host the Rebels (31–22, 13–14) in its regular season SEC series finale Thursday at Plainsman Park. The game will be broadcast by SECN+ with the first pitch set for 6:00 p.m. CT. Lets come out and help pull them through, Tiger fans.
See ya there!
Update, game 1:
Auburn takes Game one behind dominating pitching of Keegan Thompson. He was back to his old self in Auburn’s 4–1 win. He pitched 8 K’s in 6 shutout innings, gave up 0 Hits, and 0 Runs.
Update, game 2:
Tigers clinched the series with a 9–1 beat down of Rebels this evening. Go for Series Sweep at 1:00 pm CT tomorrow. The 16 SEC wins are the most for Auburn since 2010.
Auburn freshman Davis Daniel got the crucial win over Ole Miss. He struck out 8 batters and allowed only 4 hits. The victory most likely assures Auburn of an NCAA postseason bid in Coach Thompson’s 2nd year on the Plains.
Update, game 3:
Auburn falls 8-4 but win the series taking 2 out of three. On to the SEC Tourney now.