Tigers Looking To Turn The Tide

Auburn is looking to get back on track when the Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama in a three-game baseball series.

Auburn, Ala.--Winners of just three of their last nine series against rival Alabama, the Auburn Tigers will hit the road to Tuscaloosa this weekend looking to get back in the SEC Western Division race against the Crimson Tide.

Currently 20-14 overall and 5-7 in SEC play, Coach Sunny Golloway's club will have its hands full against an Alabama team that leads the league with an 8-4 conference record.

"With the last weekend we've got to bounce back," Golloway said. "It will be a character weekend. It's not going to be easy because they have a really good club. They are very, very physical. They had four home runs off Ole Miss' Friday night starter. It's going to be a tough test for us, but aren't they all every weekend."

Bouncing back is a key for the Tigers following a pair of disappointing weekends in league play. Racing out to a 4-1 start in SEC games before a Sunday loss at Tennessee, Auburn has lost six of its last seven in league play to fall into last place in the division. Needing a series win in a big way, Auburn must rely on its offense to get back to winning form for that to happen.

One of the top hitting teams in the league heading to Ole Miss last weekend, the Tigers scored just six runs in three games on the way to being swept by the Rebels. Needing the offense to show more life, Auburn got some of that in Tuesday's win over Troy as the Tigers pounded out 11 hits in the first three innings on the way to a 6-0 win.

One of the keys was senior Ryan Tella. Going 4-5 to raise his batting average to .371 on the season, Tella is one of the main offensive weapons for the Tigers. Leading the way is sophomore Jordan Ebert with a .385 average and team-high 47 hits. The power is supplied by senior Damek Tomscha. Hitting .373, Tomscha has five home runs and 21 RBI this season.

Taking on an Alabama pitching staff with a team ERA of just 2.41 that is limiting opponents to a batting average of just .207 this season, Tella said that a game like the one on Tuesday night should give the team confidence heading into the weekend.

"I think we finally just sat back and let it come to us," Tella said. "We have gotten in a funk the past two weekends, but it only takes one night to spark something, one batter or one hit can spark something. Hopefully we can take that on the road to Tuscaloosa."

While the offense will face a tough challenge, the biggest problem for the Tigers may be on the pitching side of things as Alabama comes into the series with a ton of potential at the plate. Batting .276 as a team this season with 20 total home runs, the Crimson Tide is hitting just .254 in league play with nine home runs, but they it has gotten the job done when it counts. Outscoring opponents just 62-52 in 12 league games, Alabama has managed to win eight of those contests by making plays in clutch situations.

On the mound Alabama will send out the talented trio of Spencer Turnbull, Justin Kamplain and Jon Keller. Currently 4-1 on the season with an ERA of just 1.58, Turnbull has been lights out in SEC play with a 3-0 mark in four starts.

With an overall record of 2-2 and an earned run average of 4.68, Kamplain has been touched-up in league action, allowing 18 runs in 22 1/3 innings in his four starts.

Keller is Alabama's starter for Sunday's game and has been very good. In four league starts he is 1-1 with a 2.10 ERA and is allowing the opposition to hit just .247 overall.

Auburn will counter with Dillon Ortman on Friday, Keegan Thompson on Saturday and Michael O'Neal on Sunday.

Rock-solid this year, Ortman is 5-2 with a 2.11 ERA in eight starts this season. Even better, Thompson is 5-1 with a miniscule 1.71 earned run average in his eight starts. The opposition is hitting just .171 this season off Thompson. O'Neal is expected to round out the Auburn rotation. Currently 2-3 for the year in six starts, the senior has struggled with his control with a team-high 16 walks.

Game times for the weekend series are 6 p.m. CDT on Friday, 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, 1 p.m. on Sunday and there is no TV.

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