Auburn, Ala.--Coming off their first series win in SEC play, the Auburn Tigers (18-19, 5-10) return to action this weekend when Coach Butch Thompson’s team goes back on the road to face the Ole Miss Rebels in a three-game series in Oxford. Winning three consecutive games and playing error-free in all three, Auburn is looking to build on the confidence gained in the last week said Thompson.
“I just think every series we have a chance,” Thompson said. “We finally won a series but it took us three consecutive weekends. I feel like we could have won every one of them. I just want to keep trying to put ourselves in the best position to do that and not force.
“I'd like to win as many as we can over there whether it be two, three. You always want to be positive and think big. It will be a great place to play. I think we matchup well if we play our game and put our guys in the right spots. Just like all these other weekends I kind of look for the opportunity to win a series.”
Facing an Ole Miss team that has been tough to beat at home, the Tigers will send junior Cole Lipscomb (1-3, 6.34 ERA) to the mound on Friday night with senior Justin Camp (3-2, 3.30) going on Saturday, looking to build on his complete game performance against Tennessee. Auburn will be TBA for Sunday’s contest with freshman Casey Mize (1-2, 3.63) the likely candidate to take the mound if he doesn’t pitch in either of the first two games.
The Rebels enter 28-10 on the season and 7-8 in conference play after midweek wins against Memphis and Murray State. A team that hangs its hat on pitching, Ole Miss will counter with superb Friday night starter Brady Bramlett (6-2, 2.19) to open the series after his win over Alabama last week. On Saturday the Rebels are expected to go with David Parkinson (1-1, 1.42) after his seven shutout innings a week ago. Finishing things off will be Sean Johnson, 3-0 with a 2.40 ERA this season.
Batting .317 as a team with 27 home runs this season, Auburn is led by junior center fielder Anfernee Grier at the plate with his .414 average, eight home runs and 46 runs scored. For the Tigers to click on all cylinders offensively this weekend getting Josh Palacios back would be a big plus for Auburn. Out the last six games because of a sprained wrist, Palacios will be a gametime decision on Friday.
Without Palacios and with Daniel Robert expected to be out at least another week, the Tigers have moved guys around to different spots trying to find the best possible combination. That has meant Jackson Burgreen holding down Palacios' spot in left field with Jordan Ebert in right field. That has continued on the infield with Melvin Gray at second, Damon Haecker taking over at shortstop with Cody Nulph and Kyler Deese both seeing time at third base.
Those moves have been out of necessity for Thompson and his staff this season because of the injuries and also because they are still learning about their team even two months into the year. Finding a recipe that has worked well the last three games Thompson said it’s all about trying to win a game.
“Every time we make a move we're just trying to see if we can keep 10 or 11 guys in the mix, that's always important,” Thompson said. “With him (Nulph) and Kyler's done fine lately, it gives us kind of a matchup, a right-left type deal. Whenever we can do that, find a place where somebody is comfortable and can help us, that's kind of our job to keep finding solutions.
“If you get that tough left-hander and you want to go Cody there at third base you feel like tonight kind of gets us that option. That's why I was pleased with what Cody did for us. We feel like he can do something, between him and Kyler there at third base.”
Game times for the three-game series at Ole Miss are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.