Had they lost, they would have been in fourth place. Instead, with LSU losing two of three at Vanderbilt and Mississippi State losing two of three at South Carolina, they left the weekend the same way they went in. But it was also a weekend that should cause some concern. Arkansas is a very good team, maybe even a great team, but no team should be good enough to win two of three at Auburn if the Tigers are at the top of their game. All season long they've overcome shaky outings from their starting pitchers. Friday and Saturday, they couldn't do it.
Eric Brandon gave up eight runs in 1 1/3 innings Friday. He gave up hits to the first five batters he faced, then seemed to find a groove and got three in a row. In the second inning, he gave up more hits, hit two batters and finally left the game.
Saturday, Arnold Hughey actually had a no-hitter going into the fourth inning. He retired the first two batters, then gave up six runs before he retired another one. He regained his form in the fifth inning and went into the sixth before leaving. Auburn fought back in both games, but in both games the hole proved to be too deep.
It might have been the last chance as a starter for Brandon, who has been mired in a puzzling slump since pitching a perfect game against Murray State last season. Auburn coach Steve Renfroe said after the game that Cory Dueitt will move into the rotation in next weekend's series at Vanderbilt and Brandon will go to long relief.
With Levale Speigner, Chris Dennis, fast-charging Josh Sullivan and dominating closer Steven Register in the bullpen, if the starters can get the Tigers into the sixth or seventh inning, they will be very difficult for anyone to beat. Sullivan's performance when he replaced Brandon Friday night was one of the individual highlights of the weekend. He might or might not make it big as a quarterback, but this kid obviously has a bright future in baseball.
Another individual highlight was first baseman Karl Amonite. He hit two monster home runs Friday and another Saturday. He had two hits on Sunday. In the end, the weekend could have been better and could have been worse. With four series left in the regular season, the Tigers are in position to make a run at an SEC championship and being chosen as a host site for a regional.
Auburn's women's golf team charged from behind down the stretch to win the SEC championship Sunday added yet another chapter to what is becoming one of the more remarkable athletic years in Auburn's history. The Tigers of Coach Kim Evans finished second in the NCAA Championships last season and appear poised to make another run this season. Winning seems to be contagious on the Auburn campus these days. Take a look at what's happened since September:
*The football team went 9-4, shared the West Division championship and beat Penn State 13-9 in the Capital One Bowl.
*The men's basketball team finished second in the West and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
*The women's basketball team won the WNIT.
*The men's swim team won the national championship and the SEC championship.
*The women's swim team won the national championship and the SEC championship.
*The men's track team finished second in the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships and is ranked No. 1 outdoors.
*The women's gymnastics team is one of 12 that will compete in the NCAA Championships later this week in Lincoln, Neb.
I don't know that any year an be labeled "best" without a championship in football or basketball, but certainly this has been one to remember. Until next time…