Auburn, Ala.--This weekend Coach Butch Thompson and the Auburn Tigers take on Southern University in a three-game series and it’s another opportunity for junior first baseman Niko Buentello to add to his hot start in his first season on the Plains.
Hitting .438 through four games, Buentello leads Auburn with two home runs while his 14 RBI lead the Southeastern Conference early in the season. Coming off another big game with three hits and four RBI in a win over Florida A&M, Buentello said right now he’s seeing the ball well and that is especially true early in games. In the first three innings of games this season he has driven in eight runs, over half of his total already.
“My confidence is really up right now and I’m seeing pitches really well out of the hand and picking up the breaking ball really well,” Buentello said. “I’m just trying to keep it easy and as simple as I can.”
Buentello’s bat in the middle of the Auburn order has been a welcome addition for Thompson and the Tigers and has been a big part of an offense that so far has been a big positive. With Anfernee Grier leading the way with a .500 average, Jordan Ebert at .474 and Cody Nulph at .438 like Buentello, Auburn has a big group of guys swinging the bat well so far with Buentello providing the punch.
“He looks like Mitch Moreland (former Mississippi State standout),” Thompson said of Buentello. “He’s our version of Adrian Gonzalez. I love how fluid he is. I think he’s going to be consistent. It would be hard to hit at this clip or play at this clip for an entire season, but he’s kind of hard to count out because of how he goes about his work every day.
“I referenced Anfernee in the preseason and how he’s worked,” he added. “With the consistency of Niko he doesn’t give a lot of at-bats away...the word is out and you can see a team coming in here and paying special attention to him, but he still takes what he gets. He still takes balls and swings at strikes and as long as he continues to have mature at-bats I think consistency will stay.”
Buentello puts a drive into a triple against Florida A&M
In Wednesday’s 11-2 victory Auburn did something they haven’t done so far this season, put a team away late. Scoring five runs in the eighth inning to put things out of reach, Buentello said the Tigers finally did what they were supposed to do last weekend.
“It’s huge,” Buentello said of finishing with momentum. “We have a dangerous lineup. One through nine has the ability to leave the park whenever they want. Whenever we’re all clicking on the game page it’s huge for us and we can can put up some serious runs.”
Auburn’s offense should have a chance to continue the onslaught this weekend with Southern’s pitching staff really struggling so far this season. Swept in a tournament in New Orleans last weekend, the Jaguars were outscored 36-2, including a pair of 15-0 losses in seven innings.
Game times for the weekend series are scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.