Auburn (29-24, 12-15) counters with a team that has shown at times it can beat anyone, as evidenced by road series wins at Ole Miss and Arkansas. Unfortunately the Tigers have also shown they can lose it at times as well, with mistakes costing games in the process. For Coach John Pawlowski this weekend is about taking the program to the next level and that begins by getting a series win.
"It's an important weekend for a lot of reasons with Florida coming in here this weekend," Pawlowski said. "One of our goals going into the season was to make a third consecutive trip to the SEC Tournament, which is a tremendous accomplishment for our club and our program.
"This weekend is an opportunity to play for more than that. Our players understand the importance of the weekend and where we're at. Certainly Florida is a very talented team, probably the most talented team from top to bottom in our league. We know we'll have our hands full and look forward to the challenge."
Getting the series off to a good start will be the task at hand for senior Jon Luke Jacobs (5-2, 3.10 ERA) on Thursday night. Auburn's opening night pitcher in SEC play the last three weeks, he has been solid overall and borderline dominant at times in helping solidify the spot for the Tigers. This week he'll have to face one of the most powerful offensive teams in the country as Florida enters hitting .278 as a team, but with 62 home runs.
Knowing what it takes for the team to strengthen its case for the postseason beyond the SEC Tournament, where the Tigers are currently the 10th seed, the senior said it's just one of those times where the team has to rise to the challenge to get the job done.
"It's a huge weekend for us," Jacobs said. "The implications for the weekend are huge and I think everybody kind of realizes that. They are a great team. You just have to come in and be prepared. It's our last hoorah here at home so I think everybody is ready to go. You just have to come out and leave everything out there. Not that we haven't all year, but I think more this weekend than what we have in the past. It's our last show at home and a huge weekend as far as going into the postseason."
A team that finds itself currently 61st in RPI according to Warren Nolan, Auburn will have a chance to improve that number dramatically this weekend facing the second-ranked RPI team in the Gators. Jacobs said while the team may have its backs up against the wall he believes they have what it takes to get the job done.
"On paper they are a great team and I don't want to take anything away from them, but you just go out there and play your game," Jacobs said. "You just let everything hang out and just see what happens. Try to go out there and have fun and do your best and see what happens."
Auburn will be without left fielder Cullen Wacker again this weekend as he continues to be hampered by a sprained knee suffered at Georgia two weeks ago. First baseman Garrett Cooper was sidelined last Thursday night in a win over Arkansas because of a strained back muscle and has missed the last four games. Pawlowski said he'll be day to day this weekend. With Patrick Savage playing well in his absence the return of Cooper would be a big addition to give the Tigers another solid option at the plate.
Game times for the weekend series are scheduled for 6 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday. The pitching matchups are Jacobs against Hudson Randall (6-1, 3.29) on Thursday, freshman Daniel Koger (3-4, 2.76) vs. big Brian Johnson (5-4, 4.29) on Friday, and the Tigers are listed as TBA on Saturday with the Gators throwing right-hander Karsten Whitson (3-0, 3.33).