Auburn, Ala.--On one side you have a pitching staff that leads the country in shutouts. On the other side you have perhaps the top group of arms in college baseball.
That’s the matchup when the Auburn Tigers (14-5) open SEC play this weekend as the No. 5 ranked Florida Gators (13-5) come to Plainsman Park for a three-game series at starts on Friday night.
Led by potential early round pro draft picks Alex Faedo and flamethrowers Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar, the Gators enter the weekend with a team ERA of just 2.31 and have struck out 183 in 163 ? innings this season.
At the plate Florida has a team batting average of just .247, but with 15 home runs and six players accounting for two each the Gators have plenty of guys who can swing the bat with power.
Auburn Coach Butch Thompson said while this Florida team has plenty of weapons at the plate, you have to start on the mound when talking about the Gators.
“They’re good, they’re solid,” Thompson said. “I really want our pitchers to step up. I kind of feel like it’s going to be a low-scoring game if we do what we’re built to do and if we’re prepared for the task. I look forward to having close, exciting, great games. I really do. I’m excited for this weekend. This is what we all signed up for. We’re ready to go get started on Friday.”
Casey Mize is off to a strong start on the mound.
Auburn counters with starters Keegan Thompson and Casey Mize leading the way for a staff that has held 12 of 19 teams to four runs or less this season.
Back on the mound after missing last season following Tommy John surgery, Keegan Thompson is 3-0 this year with a 0.64 ERA. Not to be outdone, Mize is 2-0 with a 0.40 ERA and leads the SEC in strikeouts with 38 in only 22 2/3 innings.
With the prospect of battling guys like Faedo and Singer, two potential first round selections, Keegan Thompson said this weekend is about doing what they do best and no worrying about what Florida does on the mound.
“I think everybody is really (excited),” the junior said. “We open conference play with a really tough opponent in top five Florida. Everybody knows they are good. They can hit, they can pitch. They lead the conference in pitching so our hitters are ready. Everybody is up for the test and ready to get going.
“We just try to go out there and do what we do,” he added of Auburn’s pitchers. “We go out there and try not to do too much because when you do that is when stuff starts going bad.”
Game times for the weekend series are set for 6 p.m. CDT on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.