Tigers Take On Radford In Weekend Series

Auburn will face Radford in a three-game series at Plainsman Park this weekend.

Auburn, Ala.--After a successful first week of action, the Auburn Tigers (3-1) get back on the diamond this weekend as coach John Pawlowski's club takes on Radford in a three-game series at Plainsman Park. With a large group of newcomers to check out both in the field and on the mound, the third-year coach said he's got a much better feel for his team as it heads into the second week of the 2011 season.

"The biggest thing was how they were going to react once we started playing with someone else in the other dugout," Pawlowski said. "When you're in a controlled environment and a controlled scrimmage it's easy to see things. You put them out there when you're playing for keeps and guys react in different ways.

"Pitching-wise Derek Varnadore was outstanding," Pawlowski said. "Saturday we didn't play well in the second half of that Virginia game but we had the opportunity to put some guys in there and give some guys some opportunities. Friday night I thought Ethan Wallen came in and threw the ball well. Overall you go into the first part of the season trying to figure out what you have. I think we've learned some things but we have a lot of questions. We're going to continue to shuffle the lineup a little bit and try to see what the right fit is. Overall I think we came together as a team. The biggest thing is the chemistry with all those new faces."

With a team ERA of 4.50 in four games, Auburn got solid performances out of the starting rotation in last weekend's tournament. While Slade Smith and Cory Luckie both got the Tigers into the middle innings, it was the junior college transfer Varnadore that stole the show. Allowing just three hits and no runs in seven innings, he earned the same role this weekend.

"Slade Smith with that heavy sinker he throws and Cory Luckie, they'll go Friday and Saturday," Pawlowski said. "Derek Varnadore will go on Sunday. I thought all three of them showed some very good signs. Slade and Cory got us into the sixth inning. That's really positive for the first outing out of both of them."

At the plate Auburn definitely saw the impact the new BBCOR bats are going to have on the college game. After hitting a nation leading 130 home runs last season, the Tigers have just one homer in 134 at-bats this season but have produced 15 doubles. With the need for ground balls, sacrifice bunts and stolen bases a high priority, Pawlowski said that's going to be the goal for this team for the foreseeable future.

"That's the identity we're really going to have to take on," Pawlowski said. "In the Jacksonville State game we had a couple of base hit bunts and I thought we showed it better. We're trying to put a lot of emphasis on that. We've got to be able to manufacture runs.

"I think we've got an experienced lineup and guys who can handle the bat. We just need tough outs from top to bottom. The short game has to be a part of it especially when you get into the elite teams in this conference, when you see the Friday and Saturday night starters. You better be able to find ways to scratch out runs."

Currently 2-1 after winning twice at Army, Radford comes in with some confidence and a solid offensive club. Hitting .330 in the first weekend, they are led by Matt Hillsinger who was 8-13 with a pair of doubles. The power is supplied by Jeff Kemp with a pair of home runs and six RBI.

On the mound Radford will send out sophomore Eddie Butler (0-0, 4.76) on Friday, junior Mark Peterson (0-0, 1.80) on Saturday and senior Bobby Boling (0-0, 2.08) on Sunday. Pawlowski said he expects a tough weekend from a solid opponent.

"I think they won 29 games last year," Pawlowski said. "They had a tremendous amount of speed last year. They've got a team that is well-coached. They know how to play. They've got three experienced right-handed pitchers I believe we'll see this weekend. It will be a good challenge."

Game times for the weekend series are 3 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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