All season long the Auburn Tigers have lived on the edge running the bases and while it has been successful at times, the mistakes have been numerous for Coach Sunny Golloway's club. Preparing to face South Carolina (29-8, 8-7) in a must-win series if the Tigers hope to make a run in the SEC West in 2014, Auburn (21-17, 6-9) is looking to clean up things on the base paths and try to get the offense going against a tough pitching staff for the Gamecocks.
It won't be hard to improve on what the Tigers have done this season on the bases. Just consider these numbers.
In 38 games this season Auburn has had 54 runners thrown out on the bases. Amazingly 12 of those have come at the plate. With six one-run losses this season those mistakes could have meant the difference in another two or three wins for the Tigers.
Golloway is hoping to change that this weekend when he takes over third base coaching duties once again. Hoping to keep the aggressive attitude of his team on the bases while trying to limit the mistakes, he said it's just a matter of doing what he thinks is best for this team to have success and right now that means being back on the field.
"I'll stand at third base let everybody yell at me and scream at me," Golloway said. "If I get somebody thrown out it will be on me, but we're going to do it the right way. If we're ahead, get ready because we're going to send him. If we're behind, we're not, and that's the philosophy. When you're behind, you've got to stay there and get the hit so we shouldn't have went the other day.
"If we're ahead, if we're up by three and we dribble one out front, go, go. Then tell the two backside guys to keep running. Don't just run one station and stop, go, but we haven't been ahead enough to do that. We've got to be smarter about our outs."
On the mound the Tigers will go back to their normal look on Friday and Saturday with Dillon Ortman on the mound to start the series with freshman Keegan Thompson taking the hill in game two. Sophomore Trey Wingenter will finish off the series in his first career SEC start on Sunday.
Going from closer last week back to the starting rotation is something that might bother many pitchers, but Thompson said for him it's a matter of just going out there this weekend and doing whatever it takes to get the job done.
"I just have to take it one step at a time and do what I'm supposed to do," Thompson said. "If you start it's a normal routine before the game. Coming out of the bullpen is pretty fun too with the adrenaline. I have to take it one step at a time.
"It's going to be big," he added of the series. "If we can get a couple of wins this weekend we'll be right back in the hunt again for the SEC. That's where we want to be."
The good news for Auburn is that if they can get a lead and turn the game over to closer Terrance Dedrick then they should be in good shape. While he hasn't gotten many opportunities this season to finish things off, converting just three saves, Dedrick has been almost lights-out in his career in conference action. In 19 appearances in SEC play the last two seasons, the Tuscaloosa native has allowed just seven runs in 33 innings (1.91 ERA) with two wins and nine saves. That should be a comforting fact for Golloway if the Tigers can get a late lead.
South Carolina By The Numbers
Team Batting Average--.282
Team Home Runs--24 Leading Hitter--Kyle Martin (.340, 4 HR, 22 RBI)
Leading Reliever--Joel Seddon (1-1, 9 saves, 0.38 ERA)
Auburn By The Numbers
Team Batting Average--.287
Team Home Runs--11
Leading Hitter--Jordan Ebert (.370, 51 hits)
Leading Reliever--Terrance Dedrick (1-1, 3 saves, 3.57 ERA)
PROBABLE PITCHING ROTATION
South Carolina - Jordan Montgomery (Jr. LHP) 5-2, 3.48 ERA, 51.2 IP, 18 BB, 55 SO
Auburn - Dillon Ortman (Sr. RHP) 6-2, 2.02 ERA, 62.1 IP, 9 BB, 43 SO
South Carolina - Jack Wynkoop (So. LHP) 5-2, 2.33 ERA, 54.0 IP, 8 BB, 44 SO
Auburn - Keegan Thompson (Fr. RHP) 5-2, 1.72 ERA, 62.2 IP, 15 BB, 51 SO
South Carolina - Will Crowe (Fr. RHP) 6-2, 2.13 ERA, 55.0 IP, 10 BB, 33 SO
Auburn - Trey Wingenter (So. RHP) 1-1, 1.93 ERA, 18.2 IP, 6 BB, 22 SO
Auburn trails South Carolina 41-19 overall with the last series win over the Gamecocks coming in 1997. The Tigers last played the Gamecocks in 2012 and were swept in the regular season before losing in the SEC Tournament.