Auburn comes into the weekend at 30-20 overall and 11-13 in SEC play and tied for eighth in the league along with Vanderbilt and Arkansas. Georgia is 25-22 overall, 9-14 in league play and just a game and a half back of eighth place. That gives both teams plenty to play for, but Auburn Coach Tommy Slater said that it doesn't make this weekend any different from 10 others they have during the season.
"There's not a game you play in this league that's not important," Slater said. "You play 30 of them. The Friday night against Tennessee and Friday night against Georgia as we wrap up the season is important. Every one of them is important, all 30. That's why we play them.
"Just look at the league and the records throughout the league. Everybody needs wins, but you don't focus on ‘hey, we've got to win', you focus on your approach and day to day that's what we've done all year long. We've talked to our guys about taking the right approach at the plate, the right approach on the mound and going about our business the right way. This team has done that for 50 games and we'll continue to take that same approach."
Auburn reliever Michael Nix is currently third in the country in saves with 12. He has combined with fellow relievers John Madden and Jared Shore to compile an 11-3 record with 19 saves in 88 appearances.
Despite their record this season, the Bulldogs are a team to be wary of as Auburn travels to Athens this weekend. The cast of characters is essentially the same as last season's squad that made it to the College World Series and was the SEC Champion. A veteran lineup and pitching staff make the Bulldogs a dangerous team and Slater said that his team is aware of the trouble that awaits this weekend.
"This is a Georgia team that was in the College World Series a year ago," Slater said. "When you look at their roster and statistics, everybody is back just about. They are very talented and very good. When they played us a year ago when I was in Gainesville (assistant at Florida) I thought they reminded me of some of our Auburn clubs here in the 90s with how athletic they were and how well they pitched. No one will be taking Georgia lightly at all. They are very, very good."
Although veterans abound at the plate and on the mound, the Bulldogs have struggled with consistency this season and find themselves at or near the bottom in several categories. As a team Georgia is hitting just .265 with only one player over .300 this season, that being right fielder Bobby Felmy at .315. The team has just 37 home runs with 11 coming from slugging first baseman Josh Morris. He also leads the team in RBI with 40. Second on the team is 30 from Joey Side.
On the mound veterans Michael Hyle and Sean Ruthven are the backbone of a staff that has struggled at times this season. With a team ERA of 4.64 the Bulldogs haven't pitched well for much of the season with the exception of the two mentioned along with closer Will Startup. With a 5-4 record this season and a team-best ERA of 3.49, Startup has been solid in relief for the Bulldogs. He leads the team with five saves, but has given up six home runs in just 59.1 innings of work.
Elsewhere around the league this weekend Arkansas is at Alabama, Mississippi State is at Florida, Tennessee is at LSU, South Carolina is at Ole Miss and Vanderbilt is at Kentucky. Game times for Auburn's games at Georgia are 6 p.m. on Friday and noon on both Saturday and Sunday. Both Friday and Saturday will be televised on Comcast Sports Southeast.