Tigers Look to Bounce Back At Ole Miss

Auburn will try to get back on track when the Tigers travel to Ole Miss this weekend for a three-game baseball series against the 16th-ranked Rebels.

Auburn, Ala.--Dropping three of its last four games entering this weekend's series at No. 16 Ole Miss (22-8, 4-5), Auburn is looking to regain the positive momentum the Tigers had following wins over Texas A&M and Tennessee to start the SEC baseball season.

The Tigers and Rebels will play one game on Friday night and a doubleheader on Saturday.

Facing a Rebel squad that is equally distressed following a sweep at the hands of Alabama last weekend, Coach Sunny Golloway's club will have its hands full going on the road once again.

"We've scuffled a little bit lately and clearly Ole Miss got swept," Golloway said. "It will be a tough weekend. It will be a weekend where it will be important for one of those two teams to get off to a good start and get rolling and get some confidence. Hopefully, we can be that team.

"I know this, we'll go in there and put our foot on the gas right away and try to push the envelope a little bit," Auburn's first-year head coach added.

Pushing the envelope hasn't been the problem for the Tigers (19-11, 5-4), but getting thrown out on the bases as a result is one of the reasons why Auburn is currently second in the league in both batting average and on-base percentage, but 10th in runs scored.

Leading the league with 52 stolen bases but also first in caught stealing with a total of 25, Auburn has been very aggressive and it has cost the Tigers at times. That is true on the base paths as well with numerous runners thrown out trying to take the extra base. Golloway said that style of play is not going to change, however, because he believes in pressuring opposing teams.

"I don't worry about it as much as it has been talked about and written about," Golloway said. "I really don't. You can hold them up, but if the throw is not on-line you score. You can hold them up and could end up getting a hit and going first-to-third and open it up a little more. Who knows? We've challenged some people, but we'll be smart about when we do and don't go."

One of the keys for Auburn is finding some consistency out of the bullpen besides seniors Jay Wade and Terrance Dedrick. While those two have been solid in SEC play this season they will need more guys to step up with still seven weeks left in the conference season. Golloway noted he has seen some good stuff from some of his pitchers in terms of power, but it may be about tweaking some deliveries moving forward to try to get more production.

"We've got to find somebody," the coach said. "I have even talked to Coach (Scott) Foxhall about doing what we've done with Trey Wingenter. We've got to drop some guys down and make their arm-slot a low three-quarter. We've got to get some movement. The guys that throw 91-93 (miles per hour) for us, it seems like we're throwing some good breaking balls, but as soon as we throw a fastball that thing gets lit up. Our bullpen will get better and it has to get better for us to do what we want to do."

The good news for Auburn is that the starters have been solid so far in 2014. Taking the mound on Friday, senior Dillon Ortman is 5-2 this year with a 2.05 ERA.

Not to be outdone, freshman Keegan Thompson is 5-0 with a miniscule 1.03 earned run average this season. He will get the start on Saturday with senior Michael O'Neal going on Sunday. Bouncing back and forth between a starting role and the bullpen, O'Neal is 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA in eight appearances.

Auburn's pitching staff will face a big challenge this weekend against a balanced Ole Miss offense featuring four regulars batting over .300 on the season. Leading the way is Austin Anderson. Hitting .368, the senior shortstop has three home runs and 16 RBI in 30 games. The production comes from senior catcher Will Allen and junior first baseman Sikes Orvis. With an average of .350 Allen has four home runs and a team-high 33 RBI this year. Leading the team with six home runs, Orvis has 20 RBI and is hitting .313 on the season.

On the mound Ole Miss will counter with Chris Ellis on Friday night, Christian Trent on Saturday and Sam Smith on Sunday. A junior from Spain Park, Ellis is one of the top pitchers in the SEC. In seven starts he is 4-0 on the season with a 1.91 ERA. A strikeout master, Trent is 3-0 with a 2.91 earned run average and 39 strikeouts with only four walks this year. Rounding out the group, Smith is 3-2 with a 2.36 ERA.

Game times for the weekend are 6:30 p.m. CDT on Friday and the first game of a doubleheader will start at 3 p.m. on Saturday with the second game to begin 45 minutes later to replace the game originally scheduled for Sunday. The change in the schedule was made to avoid the rain forecast for Sunday.

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