Auburn Facing Texas A&M For First Time

Auburn needs a big weekend on the diamond as the Tigers travel to College Station to face the Texas A&M Aggies.

Auburn, Ala.—Needing to make some noise in a hurry in SEC play, the Auburn Tigers (17-12, 1-8) hit the road for the second time in conference play this weekend as Coach John Pawlowski's club heads to College Station to face Texas A&M for the first time in school history. A solid team this season with a 19-11 record, including 5-4 league mark, the Texas A&M presents another tough challenge for the Tigers, but Pawlowski notes this weekend is more about his team and getting the job done on the field.

"We definitely need a big weekend," Pawlowski says. "As small or insignificant as it is, I told them after the game yesterday that we've won two out of our last three games. That's a small step, but that's a positive step. It would go a long way for us, getting us back on track to play well down there this weekend. I think it would really help this club.

"We are looking forward to going to a venue that we have not been to before," he adds. "Texas A&M has an outstanding team. They field the ball very well, have an outstanding short game, and they've got some big power arms so looking forward to that challenge. I think the biggest challenge for us at this point is not necessarily who we play, but how we play. Our focus has been on improving every day as a baseball team, trying to get better at all of the facets that we need to get better at regardless of who we play and where we play."

Auburn enters the weekend with a team ERA of 3.41 and pitching will be one of the keys for the Tigers on the road facing a solid offensive attack for the Aggies. The Tigers will keep the same starting pitching rotation it used in the first two games last weekend, throwing junior left-hander Conner Kendrick (2-1, 1.80 ERA) on Friday and junior left-hander Michael O'Neal (5-2, 2.28 ERA) on Saturday. Sunday's starter is yet to be determined.

Texas A&M will counter with three straight right-handers, which could play into Auburn's hands as the Tigers have 11-8 against right-handers this year. Daniel Mengden (4-1, 2.14 ERA) gets the call on Friday, Grayson Long (3-0, 2.51 ERA) on Saturday and Rafael Pineda (2-2, 2.89 ERA) on Sunday.

Damek Tomscha is riding an eight-game hitting streak and has his average up to .289 this season.

With plenty of left-handed bats to choose from there is a good chance Auburn will go back to the early season lineup that was successful for the Tigers with true freshmen Jackson Burgreen in left field and Sam Gillikin in right field. The two were on the field for Wednesday night's win over Wofford and Pawlowski says they can provide some extra speed and defense and allow Cullen Wacker to slide into the designated hitter role.

"At the beginning of the year both those guys had the opportunity to play and they bring just a good amount of athleticism and speed out there," Pawlowski says. "We put those guys out there yesterday, with Wacker at designated hitter, I still feel like he's one of our better hitters but just to shake that lineup a little bit, trying to get a little rhythm into the lineup and yesterday I thought we did some really good things. That's certainly what we need to do and we're going to need to score some runs, especially this weekend on the road."

Facing the Aggies for the first time makes for a difficult scouting report for Auburn as it prepares for this weekend's series, but Pawlowski says they'll just compile scouting reports as thoroughly as possible. In the end however he says that the reports and knowledge is secondary to his team playing solid baseball.

"One of the things we have to rely on is scouting reports, video, any TV games, try to get your hands on as much information as possible to see what their strengths and weaknesses are," Pawlowski says. "I really think the most important thing is our club right now. We're really focused in and locked in on our team and trying to get better, the things we need to do to be a better club."

Game times for the weekend series are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday night, 2 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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