Auburn, Ala.--Coming off the most disappointing series of the year by a longshot when Alabama came into Plainsman Park and walked away with a sweep, the 14th-ranked Auburn Tigers have a quick turnaround with a Tuesday night game in Birmingham against UAB before a Thursday, Friday and Saturday series at LSU.
That type of turnaround on a short week would be a test under any circumstances, but for Coach Butch Thompson’s team things are made even tougher by what transpired over the weekend. Losing three games to your rival not only made their season, but it also likely knocked Auburn out of a regional host bid unless the Tigers finish strongly against LSU and Ole Miss.
In addition the Tigers still have more to accomplish to even make the NCAA Tournament starting with Tuesday's non-conference game in Birmingham. While they are still in very good shape at 14-10 in SEC play, the Tigers need more wins to cement a spot in a regional.
Dealing with injuries to starting right fielder Daniel Robert (elbow) and shortstop Luke Jarvis (back), who have been fixtures in the middle of the Auburn lineup all year long, Auburn will have a chance to begin to put things behind them when they take the field against the Blazers. Robert is expected to be back in the lineup for the UAB game while Jarvis will make the trip to Baton Rouge with the team in hopes of playing this weekend.
Luke Jarvis is a junior shortstop for the Tigers.
Thompson said he is looking for his team to put the bad memories aside and remember what this team has done to put themselves in this position.
“I will just encourage them not to listen to noise,” Thompson said. “I will tell them that I don’t have a crystal ball and I willl tell them that we’ll keep competing and trying to play the best baseball we can. We’re just here to play ball and lead these young men and build men to the best of our abilities.
“I think sometimes when you win a whole bunch of series the game of baseball is going to hand you something like it just handed this ball club. I think they all can be used to teach and help us to grow.
“We’ll keep fighting and can we execute better? We’ve talked about that. Can we help? Me as a head coach, can I help our guys at this moment? When they’re rolling and winning series after series they don’t need me quite as much. Maybe this is an opportunity for our coaching staff to step up and lead our players. That will be the rallying cry for us now, get our guys back going. Time will tell but I look forward to getting right back out there on Tuesday and playing again.”
There was a positive for Thompson coming out of the weekend and that was the fight and grit his team showed in a 15-inning loss on Sunday night. Despite still making plenty of mistakes and coming up short at the plate time and time again with runners in scoring position, he said watching his team continue to battle showed him these guys still have plenty left in the tank.
“That’s why there will be another day to get down on a team or get after a team or coach a team when you feel like they’re not doing something,” Thompson said. “I thought everybody kept competing their heart out. I’ll have to pick another moment to use another technique. Right now I just appreciate them fighting as hard as they can for our ballclub and for our season.”
The first pitch on Tuesday night for Auburn-UAB at Regions Field in Birmingham is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CDT. Freshman Christian Camacho (2-2, 5.46 ERA) will get the start for the Tigers. UAB is scheduled to pitch junior left-hander Ryan Ruggles (2-4, 6.92 ERA). In a previous matchup vs. the Blazers this season the Tigers won 4-0 at Plainsman Park.