For the first time this season, and just the 14th time in his AU career Cory Dueitt, will be a starter for the Tigers. Dueitt says earning the start this weekend is the culmination of a goal he's been working towards for the better part of two years.
"It is something that I've been doing all fall and early in the spring," Dueitt says. "I have been getting my pitch count up because we weren't sure what we were going to do with the rotation. It's something that I'm ready for. My arm is ready to do it. Coach just told me to be ready if we needed to make a move. I'm just going to try to step up and help us out."
A reliever for much of his career, Dueitt has been stellar this season in four appearances for the Tigers. In 8 2/3 innings he has allowed just two hits and no runs while striking out seven batters. Dueitt says that there's not much difference to him in the way he prepares for games as a starter rather than a reliever.
"There is a mental aspect with it just trying to extend later on into games," Dueitt says. "The last couple of years I have been used to going all out for a couple of innings and try to get it to Steven (Steven Register). Now I'm going to have to extend longer into games, but there's not much I'm going to change because I'm not a strikeout pitcher. I get ground balls and get guys out early in the count. As long as I can keep doing that I shouldn't have to change much."
Dueitt and the Tigers will try to keep their solid start going to open the season when they take on Hofstra at Plainsman Park for a three-game series this weekend. Junior Arnold Hughey gets the start on Friday afternoon with Dueitt on Saturday and freshman Mike Felix on Sunday. Hughey is 1-0 this season with a 2.70 ERA in two starts this season. Felix, after a tough first outing, threw well last weekend against Boston College and appeared to settle into his role as a starting pitcher on the Division I level. He is 0-0 this season with a 6.43 ERA in two starts.
At the plate the Tigers are led by catcher Josh Bell. The sophomore, who also doubles as a relief pitcher at times, is hitting .393 with four home runs and eight RBI in seven games. Right behind him is catcher/first baseman Josh Sullivan with a .385 average and three runs batted in.
The only other Auburn player batting over .300 is right fielder Ben Sprague, who is hitting .313 with season with five hits in 16 at-bats. The Tigers are hitting .279 as a team while holding opponents to a .226 average. That could be helped this weekend by the possible return of first baseman Karl Amonite. Bothered by a strained bicep tendon, the senior has been practicing some and could see some action. That has yet to be determined though and is likely a gametime decision on each day.
Auburn's pitchers will face a Hofstra lineup that has struggled in 9-4 and 21-5 losses this season. The team is hitting just .263 and has scored a total of seven runs in two losses to The College of Charleston. Leading the way is Michael Walsh, who is 3-4 in two games.
Steve Oliveri (.400) and Pike Perullo (.375) are also capable at the plate. The Pride (formerly the Flying Dutchmen) has just five extra-base hits this season. Dueitt says the Tigers don't know much about their opponents this weekend, but they're just going to concentrate on doing their job and getting better on the mound.
"Basically we're going to pitch to our strengths and not change much and attack them and get guys out," Dueitt says. "We're going to take it serious and I'm sure they're coming in here ready to get after it. It's going to be a big series for them. We're going to go in pitch to our strengths and hold them down enough to get some "W"'s .
Dueitt takes a spot in the starting rotation that Colby Paxton held the first two weekends as the Tigers won five of their first six games. After defeating Samford on Tuesday the Tigers are 6-1.
Game times for the weekend series are 3 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. This will be the first meeting between Auburn and Hofstra on the baseball diamond.