Anfernee Grier (above) is off to a strong start this season at the plate and in center field for the Tigers.
Auburn, Ala.--Coach Butch Thompson and his Auburn Tigers are hoping the offense can carry the load again this weekend as they look to turn things around early in the 2016 SEC schedule against the No. 14 LSU Tigers (16-8, 2-4).
Currently 12-13 overall and 1-5 in conference play, Auburn has dropped nine of its last 10 games against LSU and 19 of the last 26 games overall in the series, but Thompson is hoping his team can build on Tuesday’s 10-1 win over Alabama and carry that momentum into this weekend’s three-game series.
One of the top hitting teams in the league, Auburn’s .326 team batting average is second in the league heading into the weekend with Anfernee Grier (.434) and Josh Palacios (.411) both hitting over .400 on the year. With seven home runs, six doubles, 13 stolen bases, 23 RBI and 35 runs scored, Grier will be the guy that looks to get Auburn’s offense started against one of the most talented pitching staffs in the league.
With sophomore sensation Alex Lange (2-1, 4.21 ERA) getting the call on Friday night, LSU is putting its best foot forward right out of the gate as they look to turn things around themselves. Coach Paul Mainieri said it’s all about wanting to get Lange on the mound as early as possible.
“Alex has overpowering stuff and gives us a chance to have a good start to the series,” Mainieri said. “He's a true ace, and we're looking forward to seeing him pitch in the Friday night role. He didn't pitch against Auburn last year due to a tight forearm--I don't know if that gives us any kind of advantage or not, because they haven't seen him before. Alex gives us the best chance on Friday night so we're going to roll with that and see how it works out.”
LSU will send junior left-hander Jared Poche (2-3, 2.55) to the mound on Saturday with senior transfer John Valek III (4-1, 2.34) scheduled to pitch on Sunday. While LSU’s pitching is the strength for the visitors heading into this series, Thompson said it won’t impact his team because they will continue to go to the plate expecting good things happen.
“I want our offense to keep building confidence that whoever roles in here we have success in Plainsman Park,” Thompson said. “That is the attitude we take with all the respect in the world for LSU’s pitchers, for their coaching staff, but at the same time we have to be prepared and know that we can play offense.
“We’ll go with a very confident approach--respect our opponent, but be ready to come out in the first inning just like we did on Tuesday.”
Having to replace a ton of talent from last season, LSU is eighth in the SEC in batting with a .295 average. The Bengal Tigers are led at the plate by freshman rightfielder Antoine Duplantis, who is hitting .370 with six doubles, two triples, 11 RBI, 15 runs and seven stolen bases. Sophomore leftfielder Beau Jordan is batting .341 with six doubles, one homer, 19 RBI and 11 runs, and junior centerfielder Jake Fraley is hitting .340 with doubles, four triples, one homer, 12 RBI, 26 runs and 14 steals.
Auburn will try to slow the LSU offense with a pair of veterans starting the series on the mound. Redshirt senior Justin Camp will continue in his Friday night role and enters the series 1-1 with a 4.71 ERA. On Saturday redshirt junior Cole Lipscomb(1-2, 5.27) earns the start for Auburn after pitching very well last weekend at Arkansas. Auburn is listed as TBA for Sunday’s game.
Game times for the weekend series are scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.