Slater Likes Strong Start By Speedy Outfielder

Auburn, Ala.--When Tommy Slater took over as head baseball coach last summer he knew many of Auburn's players such as Clete Thomas and Josh Bell after having coached against the Tigers last season while an assistant at Florida. However, one of the players he didn't know immediately caught his attention in preseason practice

Sophomore Bruce Edwards, who played some second base as a true freshman last season, originally came to Auburn on a football scholarship, but soon decided that wasn't what he wanted to do.

Instead of playing football, Edwards returned home to Columbus, Miss., for a fall before coming back to Auburn in January 2004 to join the baseball team. Since that time Edwards has made a dramatic improvement on his baseball game as is evident by his play so far this season.

The starter in center field for all seven Auburn games this season, Edwards leads the team in hitting with a .458 average and has scored eight runs in 24 at-bats. The speedy outfielder also has four stolen bases in four attempts. Throw in his solid play defensively in center field and you have a big-time player in the making, Slater says.

"I think everyone is seeing the Bruce Edwards I compared him defensively to Mailon Kent," Slater notes. "The one thing I thought he needed to work on was his base running. Not his speed, but his instincts. He worked extremely hard from late October all the way up to the start of the season on his base running, learning how to pick pitches, learning how to get a pitcher's rhythm and timing and also how to run the bases.

"I think everyone is seeing that this is a guy capable of putting up some pretty good base stealing numbers," Slater adds. "Did I think he was going to be hitting .470 two weeks into the season? No. But his approach has just been tremendous. When Bruce takes a down and through the ball approach of hitting ground balls and line drives, he's going to pressure every single guy on defense."

The quick start has been important for both Edwards and the Tigers. Gaining confidence each game, Edwards says that he is anxious every day to get to the park and get better.

"It has given me a lot of confidence and a lot of experience," Edwards says. "I'm learning every game about different situations and I'm learning how pitchers are trying to get me out. It's a very good learning experience in these early games. I just appreciate the opportunity and experience that Coach Slater is giving me."

This weekend Edwards and the Tigers take on the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams at Plainsman Park in a three-game series beginning Friday at 4 p.m. VCU enters with a 3-0 record after sweeping St. Joseph's in Petersburg, Va., to open the season. Led by a strong offensive performance the Rams scored 34 runs in three games and allowed just seven to the Hawks.

Getting it done at the plate, the Rams hit .390 as a team in the series with seven home runs. Leading the way is Scott Sizemore, who had seven hits in 12 at-bats, including five doubles.

The power comes from Joe Meador with two home runs and five runs batted in last weekend. He is hitting .364, which is only fifth out of the everyday players for VCU. Freshman shortstop Sergio Miranda was voted the Colonial Athletic Association Newcomer of the Week after hitting .357 with a double and triple in 14 at-bats.

Coach Tommy Slater's Tigers are 5-2 this season after Tuesday's victory vs. Mercer.

On the mound the starters were solid to open the season. Wayne Frenfrow was downright dominant in his first outing, pitching six hitless innings and only giving up four walks to Ram hitters. Fellow starter Harold Mozingo was good as well, giving up three unearned runs in four innings and striking out seven. Marcus David is VCU's third starter. In his first outing he gave up one hit and one run in five innings of work.

Karl Amonite continues to be Auburn's strength at the plate, hitting .423 with four home runs and 11 runs batted in. He has seven extra-base hits in just 26 at-bats this season.

Left fielder Ben Sprague is third on the team with a .417 average in his three starts. Leadoff man Tyler Johnstone is fourth on the team with a .387 average and is tied with Edwards in stolen bases at four. Catcher Josh Bell is the only other Tiger over the .300 mark at .310 with one home run and eight runs batted in.

On the mound for the Tigers this weekend will be senior Arnold Hughey on Friday, junior Josh Sullivan on Saturday and sophomore Josh Blake on Sunday.

Hughey (1-1, 2.53 ERA) will face Mozingo at 4 p.m. Sullivan (0-0, 3.00) has the task of facing off against Renfrow at 4 p.m. on Saturday and Blake (1-0, 5.40) will take the mound against David at noon on Sunday, a change from the original start time of 1 p.m.

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