Battle Of The Tigers In Baton Rouge

Auburn is looking for its fourth-straight series win over LSU when Coach John Pawlowski's club travels to Baton Rouge.

Baton Rouge, La.—Coach John Pawlowski and the Auburn Tigers (15-6, 0-3) look to continue their success against LSU this weekend as they travel to the bayou trying for their fourth consecutive series win in games vs. the Bengal Tigers.

It won't be easy, however, as No. 3 ranked LSU enters 19-2 overall and 2-1 in SEC play following a series win at Mississippi State last weekend.

"When you get into SEC play you look at the challenges that present themselves every weekend, and this is another great challenge," Pawlowski says. "LSU is off to a tremendous start and they have a very experienced lineup and they can pitch. I think it will be a great challenge for the Auburn Tigers this weekend and we certainly look forward to it."

Led by All-American Mason Katz, LSU's offensive attack is one of the best in the conference. Hitting .304 as a team with 18 home runs, the Tigers have power and experience at the plate to go along with several talented freshmen. Hitting .351, Katz has nine home runs and 32 RBi in just 21 games this season while fellow All-American Raph Rhymes checks in at .346 with 15 RBI.

A freshman from New Mexico, shortstop Alex Bregman leads the team with a .382 average and has two home runs and 20 RBI.

Challenged with containing that LSU roster is an Auburn pitching staff with a team ERA of just 3.16. That is the lowest team earned run average this deep into a season for the Tigers since 2005 and gives Auburn a shot to pull off the upset this weekend.

Sophomore Daniel Koger (0-1, 3.49 ERA) gets the call on Friday night while junior left-hander Michael O'Neal (4-1, 1.99 ERA) will start on Saturday for Auburn. Sunday is listed as TBA with Rocky McCord and Will Kendall two options for the starting role.

The Tigers will be looking for a strong outing from Daniel Koger.

On the opposite side of things LSU's pitching staff has been a strong point this season as well, boasting a team ERA of just 2.70 this season. On Friday night Aaron Nola (2-0, 3.41 ERA) takes the hill for the Bengal Tigers with Ryan Eades (4-0, 1.69 ERA) going on Saturday and freshman Cody Glenn (3-1, 2.25 ERA) finishing things on Sunday.

Offensively, Auburn will have its hands full scoring runs against a talented LSU pitching staff after struggling last weekend against Vanderbilt and again Wednesday night in an 11-inning win over Southern Miss. With a team batting average down to just .269, Auburn will need a big weekend from its veterans if it hopes to take the series win in Baton Rouge.

Senior Garrett Cooper and junior catcher Blake Austin lead the team in hitting with a .328 average while senior Cullen Wacker and freshman Jordan Ebert both check in with a .313 average. The key may be junior center fielder Ryan Tella this weekend. Entering with a .286 average and the team lead in RBI with 20, Tella needs to find his groove with LSU's strength on the mound from the right side.

After a big comeback win over Southern Miss and heading into one of the most hostile environments it will face all season, Pawlowski says his team is learning what it takes to be successful in the SEC. This weekend that will be tested to its limits as Auburn must limit the mistakes and take advantage of opportunities in every phase of the game.

"One of the things we have learned is that the guys have to understand the importance of every little thing that we do, every at-bat and every situation," Pawlowski notes. "We didn't capitalize on some of the opportunities that we had, and we had some opportunities (against Vanderbilt). Against good teams you've got to be able to capitalize on that and we didn't. I know the team was very disappointed with the outcome of that series, but they were able to move forward from it with two good ballgames this week."

Game times for the weekend series against LSU are 7 p.m. CDT on Friday, 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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