Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: Pushing For Regionals, Change Of Heart Across The State

Auburn baseball and softball are both pushing for regional host sites as we hit the stretch run in the 2017 regular season.

 Pushing For A Regional Host Site

Coming into the season this Auburn team was predicted to finish last in the SEC West and had no players on either the first or second-teams for All-SEC.

Following another impressive weekend when the Tigers got a series win over the Arkansas Razorbacks without sophomore pitcher Casey Mize, Coach Butch Thompson’s team is just a game out of first place and already has 12 league wins with 12 games left in the schedule.

To put that into perspective the Tigers are just three wins away from winning more league games than all but one Auburn team since 2003 (winning 20 in 2010).

While the starting pitching and timely relief have carried the Tigers for much of the year, recently it has been offense doing the trick for the Tigers. Hitting just 10 home runs in the first 34 games of the season, Auburn has hit 11 in the last eight outings. It has been a true team effort as well with six different players having at least eight RBI in the last 10 games.

This weekend Auburn will have a chance against the first place team in the SEC for the second consecutive weekend with a trip to Mississippi State on tap. While the Bulldogs are the hottest team in the league they’re also without depth on the mound, but much like Auburn have been good in close games. Back to full strength this weekend with Mize, Keegan Thompson and Davis Daniel all ready to go, the Tigers should be in good position to finish strong and perhaps come one step closer to not only getting into the NCAA Tournament, but being a host site for a regional at Plainsman Park.

Swindle Steps Up

It’s hard to find much better news for Coach Clint Myers after a tough start to the week than to see true freshman Ashlee Swindle pitch the way she did on Saturday at South Carolina to secure a series win for the Tigers over the Gamecocks.

With number two starter Makayla Martin suspended along with shortstop Haley Fagan and outfielder Brittany Marasette, Auburn was left with plenty of uncertainty heading into the weekend even with Kaylee Carlson in the circle for at least two games. Needing well-pitched innings in the middle game to give them a chance to win the series, the Tigers got much more than that from Swindle.

What looked like a huge problem heading into the weekend may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Tigers because now Swindle looks to be a viable candidate to help this team at some point in the postseason.

One of the strengths for Auburn the last few years has been the number of different arms the Tigers have been able to throw at the opposition. That hasn’t been the case so far in 2017, but that could be changing with Swindle’s continued development.

Fagan’s absence from the lineup hurts the team both defensively and offensively. If she’s back it should help, but this team needs to get hot at the plate to finish the season the way the Tigers want to do it. If they can get a little momentum swinging the bat the sky’s the limit for the team if the good pitching continues.


Change Of Heart

I continue to find it interesting how much Alabama’s Nick Saban has transformed his offense in the past few seasons after first talking about the dangers of up-tempo systems and then how RPO’s (Run-Pass-Option) weren’t really football.

We’ve seen Alabama tempo a good bit the last few seasons and not once have I seen Saban say they needed to slow down because the other team might get hurt.

Now it’s throwing the ball on running plays.

Just a few years ago Saban had this quote on the play:

“The one technical thing in the game that is really difficult for defensive players is when we changed the rule to three-and-a-half yards downfield and made RPOs,” Saban said. “Offensive linemen block running plays, and the quarterback throws the ball — that’s never been football, and it’s not allowed in the NFL. The more our game can be like the NFL, the better, because we do develop players for the NFL, and that’s what most players want to have the opportunity to do.

“If there was one rule that needs to be enforced or changed, that has significantly changed the game, it’s probably that illegal downfield rule.”

That’s interesting seeing how Alabama’s offense did a lot of those very things last season with Jalen Hurts at the helm and based on Saturday’s spring game the Tide will do even more this year. If you truly believe it’s bad for the game then why do it?

Because much like the up-tempo offense argument he tried to make, it’s more about hurting his defense than it is the sanctity of the game. In the end it’s all about winning and we’ve seen now that Saban isn’t all about protecting the identity of football and making it the “NFL” way, it’s all about the score at the end that matters.

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