Auburn, Ala.--Coming off back-to-back series sweeps at the hands of Alabama and LSU, the Auburn Tigers find themselves in a must-win situation this weekend when the Ole Miss Rebels (31-22, 13-14) come to Plainsman Park in the final regular season series of the year after falling 6-0 at Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Currently 32-21 overall and 14-13 in SEC play, Auburn needs to get back to its winning ways beginning Thursday night to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Likely needing two wins against the Rebels, the Tigers will have their familiar pitching rotation to lean on with junior Keegan Thompson (5-4, 2.48 ERA) expected to be on the mound Thursday night, sophomore Casey Mize (6-2, 1.97) on Friday and freshman Davis Daniel (3-2, 5.28) pitching the Saturday contest.
Coach Butch Thompson said for his team the main goal is just winning games, starting this weekend against Ole Miss.
"You want to play your best baseball when you get to this point in the season," Thompson said. "We know we’re playing for a lot and we know we need to win a series just to keep getting better as a ballclub and to get things going. The timing of not playing well was not the best in the world for us, but we still have so much in front of us. We’re trying to get to 15 conference wins for two weeks now and heading into a third week. That’s something that has only been accomplished once since 2003. We’re trying to keep knocking the wall down and stay positive"
Casey Mize is a sophomore right-hander for the Tigers.
That trio will guide an Auburn staff into a weekend where the Tigers will face off with one of the best and deepest pitching units in the SEC from Ole Miss.
With a team ERA of 3.47 the Rebels are expected to counter with James McArthur (3-5, 4.70) on Thursday, freshman Ryan Rollison (6-2, 2.48) on Friday and David Parkinson (6-3, 3.48) on Saturday. Throw in relievers Dallas Woolfork (3-2, 2.00, 13 saves) and Will Stokes (1-1, 2.89, 4 saves) and it’s easy to see why teams are batting just .236 this season against Ole Miss.
James McArthur is scheduled to open the series on the mound for the Rebels.
That’s not good news for an Auburn offense that has been really struggling the last two weeks without shortstop Luke Jarvis and right fielder Daniel Robert to provide some extra pop in the lineup. Robert looks to be closer to being ready to go this weekend and while Jarvis has practiced this week it will probably be a game time decision for him on Thursday night.
Getting Jarvis back could be one of the biggest keys for an offense that is hitting just .251 in the last 10 games and scoring just 4.8 runs per contest. Dylan Ingram’s .385 average, three home runs and 10 RBI leads the way for the Tigers with Jonah Todd right behind him at .381 with seven RBI. Damon Haecker is the only other regular batting over .300 in the stretch for the Tigers.
It hasn’t just been a lack of offense that has doomed Auburn in the last two and a half weeks as the team ERA ballooned to 5.64 with Thompson, Mize and Daniel combining to give up 31 earned runs in just 41 ? innings.
Improvement will be needed in all areas if the Tigers hope to get back on track and pick up a huge series win over the Rebels.
Top Hitters: Auburn
Jonah Todd, .383, .410 OBP, 46 runs scored (.402 in SEC play)
Dylan Ingram, .278 SEC play, six home runs, 19 RBI in 26 games
Top Hitters: Ole Miss
Nick Fortes, .328, 5 HR, 29 RBI
Tate Blackman, .299, 9 HR, 26 RBI
Colby Bortles, .284, 10 HR, 41 RBI
Thursday, 6 p.m., SEC Network+
Friday, 6 p.m., SEC Network+
Saturday, 1 p.m., SEC Network+