Still very much in the hunt not only for a trip to the SEC Tournament, but an NCAA regional as well, Auburn needs a strong performance against the Bulldogs in a series that begins Thursday night.
“It’s very important,” Coach Sunny Golloway said of the three games vs. the Bulldogs. “It seems like every time we talk about it that this weekend is very important, but we created that because of our conference record now for two straight years.
"To be the program we want to be and to be the team we want to be and to go in the direction we want to go, we have got to play well and got to get some wins in the SEC.”
That starts at the plate where the Tigers continue to struggle scoring runs on a consistent basis. Entering the weekend with an overall team batting average of .287, Auburn is hitting just .268 in SEC play, but the good news is that is up from .249 just one week ago after a big weekend against Ole Miss.
Leading the way in SEC play offensively has been second baseman Melvin Gray. Inserted into the lineup following the first league series at Texas A&M, Gray has responded with a .333 average and eight runs scored in 15 games. That’s just ahead of Anfernee Grier’s .329 mark in conference play. Grier leads the league overall with 65 hits and 19 doubles.
The lack of power is still a concern for Auburn, however, as the team has just three home runs in 18 games so far in 2015, one of those coming from pitcher Keegan Thompson, who has just five at-bats this year in SEC play.
On the mound Auburn will alter its rotation after soreness in Thompson’s shoulder last Saturday forced him out of the game early. Thompson (7-3, 3.17 ERA) is expected back this week, but will bump back to the third game to give him a full week’s rest. Cole Lipscomb (5-1, 2.19) gets the ball in the series opener with Rocky McCord (3-3, 3.81) now pitching in game two on Friday.
They will match up against a talented trio from Georgia with junior RHP David Sosebee (2-1, 1.95) taking the mound on Thursday with fellow right-hander Sean McLaughlin (3-3, 5.06) going on Friday and junior lefty Ryan Lawlor (4-5, 3.11) finishing off the series on Saturday.
Hitting .268 as a team with 31 home runs, Georgia has plenty of power to go around with five players totaling at least three long balls so far in 2015. Leading the team in hitting is Stephen Wrenn with a .321 average and five home runs. Throw in his 20 stolen bases in 26 attempts and Wrenn is definitely the guy the Tigers have to pay close attention to this weekend.
Game times for the series are scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT on both Thursday and Friday with a noon start on Saturday. All three games can be seen on the SEC Network.