Despite winning six of the last nine meetings between the two schools, Auburn hasn't had much success against the Jaguars in the long run, trailing 39-15 overall in the series including a 22-7 South Alabama lead in games played in Mobile. Never was this more evident than last season when USA outscored Auburn 27-4 in sweeping two games from the Tigers.
This time around South Alabama enters with an inexperienced team that is struggling through a tough early schedule. As always the Jaguars rely on a good offense, hitting .285 as a team with 24 home runs. Leading the way is Justin Hawarah with a .361 average and 10 doubles. The leading power guy for USA is Quend Montgomery, who has five home runs, 20 runs batted in and a batting average of .318.
Auburn will go with either senior Cory Dueitt or sophomore Chris Dennis on the mound against the Jaguars Tuesday night. Dueitt is 3-3 this season with an ERA of 3.86 in 39 2/3 innings this season. Dennis enters with a record of 2-0 and an earned run average of 3.20. Dennis has 24 strikeouts this season with only three walks.
South Alabama will counter with one of two freshmen, either Joey Doan or Josh Ehmke. A right-hander, Doan is 1-5 this season with an ERA of 6.07 in eight appearances. He has given up 61 hits in 43 innings. Ehmke, a left-hander, is 1-0 with an earned run average of 7.20 in 10 relief appearances this season.
For the Tigers a weekend series win over Ole Miss was just what the doctor ordered for a team that has been slowed by injuries since last fall. The latest in the line is sophomore catcher Josh Sullivan, who left Friday night's game with a neck injury and is still questionable for this weekend's series against Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Without Sullivan available, junior college transfer Mike Hyntka took over the duties and came through with a solid performance. This season Hyntka is hitting just .214, but has been a clutch performer. That holds true for shortstop Chuck Jeroloman as well. After a weekend that saw him go 7-12 with a home run and a .529 on-base-percentage, the junior has raised his batting average to .286 on the season and is quickly becoming a solid number two hitter for the Tigers. He leads the team in hitting in SEC games with an average of .367 and seven multi-hit games. Already Jeroloman has 18 hits in league play and his career-high is 23.
Leading the Auburn attack, sophomore center fielder Clete Thomas continues to be productive. The speedster is hitting .341 with 43 hits, 29 runs, nine doubles, three triples, one home run and 19 stolen bases in 21 attempts. As a team Auburn is hitting .272 with 23 home runs and 62 doubles. The Tigers have 31 stolen bases in just 39 attempts.
Coach Steve Renfroe's philosophy has always been to challenge his teams with a tough early season schedule and this year has been no different. Already the Tigers have played 16 games against ranked opponents, compiling a record of 11-5. Auburn has also had success on the road, winning seven of nine series away from Plainsman Park in the last two years.