While the playing careers of pitcher Levale Speigner and catcher Bobby Huddleston are well known, the same can't be said for infielder Josh Todd. A spot player each of the last two seasons, Todd has been forced into action late in his senior season because of an injury to catcher/designated hitter Josh Bell.
One of Auburn's best hitters for much of the season, Bell had eight home runs and 35 runs batted in heading into the Saturday game against Ole Miss in the last weekend of the season. Behind the plate, Bell took a foul ball of his right index finger and the result was a broken bone that required surgery. Out for the remainder of the season, his absence put a strain on the already thin Auburn lineup heading into the postseason. That's when the little-used Todd came to the rescue.
Josh Todd will be counted on to take a bigger role in NCAA play.
A junior college transfer last season from Florida Community College in Jacksonville, Todd had 80 at-bats last season, but that number plummeted to just 16 total at-bats heading to Hoover last week. Inserted into the lineup against Vanderbilt as the designated hitter, Todd came through with two bunt singles and was a key figure in Auburn's win over the Commodores. Now ready to take an even bigger role this weekend as the Tigers prepare to be a host for a regional at Plainsman Park, Todd says that he was just waiting his turn to come through.
"I think everybody on this team just looks for an opportunity to help out and have a chance to help the team win," Todd says. "That's the attitude all throughout the team, that's the way it has been all season. It's not just me or anybody specifically, it's with everybody."
As one of just three seniors on this year's team, Todd has seen the attitude of this team change greatly since the end of last season when the Tigers failed to win a game in the postseason. Working hard to keep everyone involved and a part of the team has been a major goal for the leaders of this team and Todd says it's easy to see the improvement from the inside. "You can just feel the difference in the clubhouse," Todd notes. "Everybody just gets along and we're more focused on winning than on individual stats. I think that makes the biggest difference of all when we're on the field."
One goal for the Tigers this year was to play well enough against one of the nation's toughest schedules to earn a home regional. Not only did Auburn earn a regional, the Tigers garnered the fourth overall seed in the field of 64 teams. Todd says that the thoughts of playing at home have this team in a good mindset heading into tomorrow's opener against Princeton.
"Not just for this team, but for any team to be able to come back to your home park and play in the postseason, we think it's an advantage," Todd says. "To be able to sleep in your own bed, have our fans here and play in our park, it's just much more comfortable than having to go somewhere else to play."
Just like many players growing up, Todd has dreamed of playing in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., since he first picked up a bat and glove. Knowing that the goal is attainable in his senior season if the Tigers can take care of business the next two weekends has Todd thinking about what could be. While he says this season has been more fun than he ever expected, he's hoping for the big prize before he hangs up his cleats for the last time as a Tiger.
"Everybody in their last season, they always want to have one last hurrah," Todd says. "This has been just amazing to be a part of this and be able to watch this team play. Just like anybody would say, if we win Omaha then it would be a perfect ending to this year."
Tiger Ticket Extra: This weekend's regional has some old friends coming back together with Javon Moran and Zane Green seeing each other during Thursday's practice sessions at Plainsman Park. High school teammates at Lowndes High in Valdosta, Ga., Moran and Green combined with Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew to lead their high school to a state championship as seniors. Moran was 64-64 in stolen bases during his high school career and holds the school career record for runs (150) and stolen bases. Green was named the AAAA State Player of the Year as a senior when he hit .473 with 11 home runs, 57 runs batted in and 12 stolen bases.
Princeton starter Ryan Quillian, who will take the mound against Auburn Friday at 6:30 p.m., became the first Tiger to be named the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year in the award's 24-year history when he won the trophy in 2001. For his career Quillian is 19-14 and has 39 career starts. He's originally from Atlanta and played at Westminster School.