Tigers Prepare for Baseball Games Vs. Belmont

The Auburn baseball team begins a three-game series against Belmont on Friday evening in the first game ever between the two teams.

Auburn, Ala.-- The Auburn baseball team begins a three-day home stand against the Belmont Bruins on Friday at 6 p.m. CST in the last weekend of nonconference games before starting SEC play.

Derek Varnadore (1-1, 5.89 ERA) will start the game on the mound for the Tigers, who bring an 8-6 record into the contest. The senior has allowed 27 hits and 12 earned runs in 18 1/3 innings pitched in three appearances this season.

The Bruins will start Chase Brookshire (1-1, 1.06). The left-hander has given up only eight hits and two earned runs in 17 innings. Opponents are batting .140 against the junior pitcher.

The Bruins are 8-5 on the season, which includes a 6-5 win over their cross-town rival Vanderbilt on Tuesday. Belmont has won six of the last seven games in its 13-game home stand to start the season.

Belmont's most dangerous player at the plate is Zac Mitchell. The senior infielder has a batting average of .475 and has scored a team-high 18 runs in 13 games. Only one other player is batting above .300 for the Bruins, sophomore Greg Brody, who is hitting at a .302 clip.

Senior Creede Simpson leads the Tigers with a .446 batting average, 15 RBIs and six doubles in 56 at-bats. Simpson's 25 hits currently leads the SEC.

Lead-off hitter Jay Gonzalez is hitting at a .345 clip and has scored a team-high 19 runs. Gonzalez's three triples leads the SEC and is second nationally.

Simpson and Gonzalez have combined to steal 25 bases in 30 attempts. As a team, the Tigers lead the nation with 44 stolen bases, which equals last year's mark of 44 in 58 games.

The 2012 Tigers are 72 stolen bases shy of the all-time Auburn record of 116, which has stood since 1974.

Ryan Tella has also been productive at the plate for the Tigers, batting .404 while drawing a team-high 15 walks so far this season. Tella is hitting .486 during his team-best eight game hitting streak.

Auburn has 154 total hits as a team this season, which ranks fourth nationally and leads the SEC. Auburn also leads the SEC in on-base percentage (.441), walks (81), sacrifice bunts (15), steals and steal attempts (57).

Friday's game between Auburn and Belmont is the first meeting between the two in baseball.

Belmont's Matt Hamann (0-1, 5.74 ERA) and Auburn's Will Kendall (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will start the second game of the series, which is slated for 3 p.m. on Saturday.

James Buckelew (3-0, 0.50) and Daniel Kroger (1-0, 1.65) are the scheduled starting pitchers for the last game of the series on Sunday at 1 p.m. CST.

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