Auburn enters the non-conference with a record of 31-10 overall while South Alabama is 27-12 overall and 21-5 in its last 26 games. Included in that run are wins over previously ranked Southern Mississippi, New Orleans and Middle Tennessee State.
Tuesday could be an important game for the Tigers, not because of a win or loss, but in the development of freshman pitcher Josh Sullivan. The backup quarterback for the football team has six appearances this season without a decision and an ERA of 4.00, but is coming off his best performance of the season by far. Needed in long relief in Friday's game against Arkansas, Sullivan allowed just one run on three hits in 4 2/3 innings to bolster his status with the Tigers as a long reliever.
That job belonged to junior Cory Dueitt, but he has a new role as well. Struggling to find his rhythm, junior Eric Brandon is being sent to the bullpen and replaced by Dueitt in the starting rotation for the Vanderbilt series that starts on Friday in Nashville. Arnold Hughey will move up to pitch Friday night and Colby Paxton will go Saturday with Dueitt slated for Sunday afternoon. The move puts Sullivan in a prime spot to earn additional time on the mound the rest of the season beginning with a possible start Tuesday night and turning into a relief role out of the bullpen on weekends.
"I think Sullivan has earned a shot," Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said. "So you bump Sullivan up and you still have Levale Speigner and Chris Dennis that can get you. I think Sully would be the long guy and Chris and Levale to get to Steven (Steven Register)."
Sullivan and Speigner (7-0, 2.89 ERA) are both expected to see action against a very potent Jaguar lineup that is hitting .324 this season with 52 home runs in just 39 games. Leading the way in the power department is Ryan Mulhern. A big, strong hitter, he is batting .351 with 12 home runs and 40 runs batted in. Josh Touchstone may be the most dangerous of the USA hitters with an average of .370 plus eight home runs and 29 runs batted in.
South Alabama is expected to send either Billy Fullam or Bert Heath to the mound to face the Tigers. Fullam is 1-0 this season with an ERA of 6.00 in eight appearances while Heath is 3-1 with a 6.94 earned run average in 13 appearances. Opponents are hitting .321 off Heath.
Second baseman Tug Hulett continues to lead the way for the Tigers at the plate with a .404 average and a team-high 20 doubles. Second on the team in hitting is third baseman Scott Schade, who is hitting .333 with 10 doubles and 22 runs batted in. The player who has significantly improved his play in recent weeks is first baseman Karl Amonite. Now hitting .321 following a fantastic weekend against Arkansas, Amonite is second on the team with eight home runs and 37 runs batted in. Amonite leads the team with a .580 on-base percentage.
South Alabama leads the all-time series, 38-15, dating back to 1968 and holds a 21-7 advantage over the Tigers in Mobile. Auburn has won four in a row in Mobile.