Currently 28-25 overall and 10-17 in conference play, Auburn trails Georgia by a half-game and Tennessee by a full game in the race for the SEC Tournament. That means the Tigers must win one more game than either the Bulldogs or the Vols to secure a spot in the Top 12 of the league.
First, Auburn must take care of business against an LSU team coming off a 27-0 win over Northwestern State on Tuesday night. Needing to put a tough Sunday loss at Kentucky behind them, the Tigers responded with a 6-5 walk-off win over UAB themselves on Tuesday, something Coach Sunny Golloway said was big for his team heading into a must-win weekend.
"Yes, it's a meaningful weekend," Golloway said. "Our goals are much different and greater, but it is what it is. I'm going to keep preaching Omaha til the day I die. I am. Call me crazy but this program deserves to be talked about going to Omaha and we're not playing for Omaha right now, but we kind of are if we can get in the tournament and win the tournament. And then win a regional. Then win a super. Crazier things have happened.
"Fresno State did it a few years ago. They weren't going to get an at-large until they won their conference tournament. We're playing for something and we're going to play hard for it. I hope things fall the way these guys deserve and I know there are kids at Tennessee that deserve to have things fall their way and Georgia. They all do I'm sure but these are the guys I'm in charge of and I sure hope things fall their way. They are going to play hard."
LSU (37-14-1, 14-10-1) seeks an SEC West title and a first-round SEC Tournament bye, which the Tigers are still in the hunt for entering the last weekend. Sending left-hander Jared Poche (7-3, 2.55 ERA) to the mound on Thursday and ace Aaron Nola (8-1, 1.43) on Friday, LSU is listed as TBA on Saturday. Auburn will counter with seniors Dillon Ortman (9-2, 2.01) in the series opener on Thursday and Michael O'Neal (3-5, 2.82) on Friday. Saturday's starter is listed as TBA with Ryan Tella, Justin Camp and Daniel Koger possibilities to get the call for Auburn.
Nine seniors will play their final home games this weekend against LSU. The nine that will be honored before Saturday's regular-season finale are C Blake Austin, RHP Reid Carter, RHP Terrance Dedrick, IF Dan Glevenyak, O'Neal, Ortman, Tella, IF Damek Tomscha and RHP Jay Wade. One of the keys to the weekend, Tella said this team has more left in it and this weekend is an opportunity to finish strong.
"We could do a lot," Tella said. "The games we've had, we've kind of just missed it. Just bad luck on our part. There are so many things that we could have done and if you look back on it, it could be a whole different season for us with a better record in the SEC and better record overall. We still have three more games. It's just going to be a dogfight. Whoever steps on the yard that day it's just going to be a grind with all nine men, one pitch at a time."
LSU at a glance
Team Batting: .278, 30 HR, 92 doubles, 40-60 stolen bases
Leading Hitter: Andrew Stevenson (.344, 5 triples, 25 RBI)
Most Dynamic Offensive Player: Alex Bregman (.293, 5 HR, 11 doubles, 39)
Team Pitching: 2.58 ERA, 377 K's, 147 BB, 13 shutouts
Leading Pitcher: Aaron Nola (8-1, 1.43 ERA)
Best Reliever: Joe Broussard (3-1, 0.95 ERA, 8 saves)
Game times for the weekend series are 6 p.m on both Thursday and Friday with Saturday's game set for 1 p.m. SportSouth will carry Saturday's game.
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