Auburn, Ala.--After an offensive explosion in Tuesday night’s win over Georgia Tech, the Auburn Tigers (9-8) are a confident team heading into this weekend’s SEC baseball series opener against Texas A&M. The No. 3 team in the country and 13-1 on the season, the Aggies are a veteran team that Coach Butch Thompson knows well from his days at Mississippi State and they will present a very big challenge for the Tigers.
“I have seen a lot from them over the years and they’ve got a lot of those guys back,” Thompson said. “I guess on paper, how do we even match up? I’m glad we don’t play this game on paper, however, because it’s not paper football or anything.
“I think what Tuesday night showed us is we can go on the road and play a great team or do whatever. I hope that tells us that if we play the game of baseball and do what we’re supposed to do then we should have a chance to beat anybody in the game of baseball.”
Auburn will continue its same rotation this weekend with senior Justin Camp (1-1, 3.46 ERA) getting the call on Friday night, true freshman Casey Mize (1-1, 1.46) on Saturday, and redshirt junior Cole Lipscomb (1-1, 4.00) on Sunday. Texas A&M will counter with sophomore Jace Vines (3-0, 2.33) on Friday with freshman Tyler Ivey (2-0, 0.77) going on Saturday with senior Kyle Simonds (3-0, 1.17) finishing off the weekend.
The Tigers’ offense will be challenged by one of the top pitching staffs in the country as the Aggies go much deeper than just the weekend starters. Texas A&M enters the fray with a team ERA of 2.12 and .195 opponent batting average. They have yielded just 25 extra-base hits in 157.0 innings and rank fourth in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings (10.5), fifth in K-to-BB ratio (3.83), seventh in WHIP (1.01) and eighth in ERA (2.12). The Aggies lead the nation with five shutouts on the year.
Auburn will counter with an offense that has hit its stride in the last four games, scoring 49 runs over that span and hitting .391 as a team. Junior center fielder Anfernee Grier continues to lead the way for the Tigers, batting .429 with four home runs, 17 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Junior college transfer Niko Buentello has provided plenty of pop as well, batting .397 with five home runs and 29 runs batted in.
Jordan Ebert (.385), Josh Palacios (.380). Cody Nulph (.379), and Blake Logan (.348) are all swinging the bat well for the Tigers in addition to Grier and Buentello, giving Auburn plenty of options up and down the lineup. Logan said this group has gained a lot of confidence at the plate over the last week and that’s huge heading into SEC play.
“We feel pretty good,” Logan said. “This past weekend and past week was a big confidence builder for us to get back to playing the game that we’re taught to play and how we know. I think it’s pretty good for us.
“We just have that good mentality,” he added. “We struggled a few weeks ago it was kind of a whole team slump is what we said. Getting back this weekend and really having a really good approach and being tough outs at the plate and carrying it over and playing a really good team at Georgia Tech and having that carry over is really big for us.”
Auburn’s pitching staff will try to contend with one of the top hitting teams in the country this weekend as well as the Aggies roll in after a big 5-4 victory over rival Texas on Tuesday night. The guy who has been the leader of that offense has been J.B. Moss. He's reached base in all 16 games he's played in and leads the team in batting average (.406), slugging percentage (.656), runs (20), doubles (6) and stolen bases (4). Moss leads an offense that ranks sixth in the nation with a .336 batting average.
Game times for the series this weekend are set for 6:30 p.m. CDT on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.