Auburn, Ala.--With plenty to play for with SEC Baseball Tournament seeding and NCAA Regional host spots still very much in play, the No. 4 Auburn Tigers (32-14, 14-7) take on rival Alabama (15-29, 2-19) this weekend in a three-game series at Plainsman Park.
On paper this might look like an easy weekend for Butch Thompson’s team with the Crimson Tide entering on a 13-game SEC losing streak, but the second-year head coach knows it will be a major challenge for his Tigers against an Alabama team with nothing to lose.
“I think we’ve already lined up toe-to-toe and faced them face-to-face (in the Capital City Classic) and had a one-run ball game,” Thompson said. “The last ball game they just played against a real good SEC team (LSU), they went 11 innings. They went to Mississippi State, I think our players have respect for that environment and how tough it is to compete in that venue against that ball club, and they lose three one-run games.
“I think from our own journey of us losing 11 one-games last year we know how close it is between success and failure. I think we’ve got our work cut out for us. If I was the head coach at Alabama, which I’m not, I would be taking this as my postseason and I would be trying to get my ballclub to play their best baseball of the entire year.”
Making the series even bigger for the Tigers is the fact that they haven’t beaten Alabama in a series since 2011 and are just 3-12 in the last five years in series against the Crimson Tide. That’s something that senior catcher Blake Logan said makes this weekend a big one for this team.
“It’s Auburn-Alabama and that’s pretty much all that needs to be said,” Logan said. “Being the last time playing Alabama you would like to go out on a high note. Since I have been here we haven’t beaten them in a series.
“It’s important but you have to treat it just like every other series," he added. "All of them are important. It’s the SEC. There are no off-weekends. You’ve got to bring it every game, every series. I’m looking forward to it.”
Coming off a big weekend series victory at Mississippi State, the Tigers have a great chance to play themselves into a regional host spot with a solid finish to the 2017 regular season. A team that has done a good job all season long of not getting ahead of itself and playing pitch-to-pitch and day-to-day, the Tigers have to continue with that approach this weekend, Thompson noted.
“Our, our challenge is can we stay right there,” the coach said. “That’s our job as a coaching staff, to keep the guys staying right on track. To be at this point in the season, 10 games remaining in the regular season, with every game being more meaningful and bigger every time you take the field, that’s what it’s supposed to be all about.
“We just have to keep defining every day and keep fighting and stay in the now. That’s where you want to be as a program, for every game to be humongous. That’s what you want. How can be stay focused on the task at hand, that’s the challenge.”
Pitching Rotation: Auburn
Friday: Jr. RHP Keegan Thompson, 5-2, 2.05 ERA
Saturday: So. RHP Casey Mize, 6-1, 1.23 ERA
Sunday: Fr. RHP Davis Daniel, 3-2, 4.97 ERA
Pitching Rotation: Alabama
Friday: Sr. RHP Nick Eicholtz, 1-2, 5.91 ERA
Saturday: Jr. RHP Jake Walters, 4-4, 3.99 ERA
Top Offensive Players: Auburn
Jr. OF Jonah Todd--.396, .485 on-base percentage, 45 runs scored
Fr. DH Conor Davis--.324, 9 doubles, 22 RBI
Top Offensive Players: Alabama
IF Cobie Vance, .308, 8 doubles, 25 RBI
OF Chandler Taylor, .260, 12 HR, 28 RBI
Friday: 6 p.m CDT., SEC Network+
Saturday: 2 p.m., SEC Network+
Sunday: 4 p.m., SEC Network