Auburn, Ala.--When the 17th-ranked Auburn Tigers (21-6, 5-1) take on No. 6 South Carolina (19-6, 5-1) this weekend at Plainsman Park it will be a battle of eams featuring two of the top pitching staffs in the Southeastern Conference.
While the Gamecocks are getting healthier with ace Clarke Schmidt recovering from an oblique injury, for Butch Thompson’s Tigers the story is a different one with junior Keegan Thompson questionable with shoulder tendinitis that flared up last weekend in a start at Georgia.
Preparing to take the mound on Friday night in one of the biggest series at Auburn in several years, Mize said he won’t change anything as he gets ready to face the Gamecocks.
“I don’t think it’s pressure,” Mize said of pitching in place of Keegan Thompson. “Yeah, I hope he gets to come out there. I’m not sure what the plan is, but I've just got to go out there and stay within myself and try to do what I do, try to help provide the win that Keegan would help provide if he went out on Friday. I’m going to try to get the team off to a good start and set the tone for the weekend.”
How well Auburn does against South Carolina may depend more on how well the bullpen performs over the course of the weekend. A big question heading into the season, the group has become a team strength for the Tigers in recent weeks. Over the last 12 games the bullpen has an ERA of just 1.50 with opponents hitting just .183 against the relievers.
Senior Cole Lipscomb leads the way with a 3-0 record, five saves and an ERA of 2.37. Juniors Corey Herndon (1-0, 2 saves) and Andrew Mitchell (4-0, 1 save) also have been big for Auburn this season, but Coach Butch Thompson said the addition of guys like Ryan Watson and Daniel Robert have made them much better.
“Corey Herndon, I just like his makeup,” Thompson said. “He has kind of been up and down, thrown the ball okay at times. I thought he looked a lot better Tuesday (vs. Alabama). What Ryan Watson has done for us as a true freshman has been pretty neat. Andrew Mitchell is getting stronger and stronger, and wanting the baseball more and more.
“Cole Lipscomb, the first road series last week with four games and he finished three of them on the mound. That’s been so positive. Daniel Robert with what he did Friday night at Georgia, everybody has contributed. It’s not one guy, that’s what’s neat about it.
“It’s not going to be one guy. I think the best way we flow, if we made a T-shirt it would say the baton-passing pitching staff. It’s our ability to pass it to one another and we’ll have to continue to do that.”
Friday: Casey Mize (3-1, 0.98 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Will Crowe (3-0, 2.75 ERA)
Saturday: Davis Daniel (2-0, 4.44 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Clarke Schmidt (3-0, 1.12 ERA)
Sunday: TBA vs. So. RHP Adam Hill (1-3, 2.15 ERA)
Top Offensive Performers: Auburn
Jr. OF Jonah Todd: .340, 8 doubles, 24 runs scored
Sr. Util. Daniel Robert: .310, 2 HR, 22 RBI
Top Offensive Performers: South Carolina
Jr. INF Matt Williams: .366, .500 OBP
Jr. OF Alex Destino: .300, 4 HR, 21 RBI
Game Times (CDT):
Friday 6 p.m. SECNetwork+
Saturday 5 p.m. ESPNU
Sunday 1 p.m. SECNetwork+