This is the second straight season the Tigers have faced North Carolina and just the fourth time overall. Last season Auburn defeated the Tar Heels 11-1 in the Coca-Cola Classic in Mobile in a game called due to the mercy rule. That feat will likely be hard to repeat this season as North Carolina comes in a much improved team despite its modest 6-5 record. With losses to Seton Hall, Georgia and California dotting its schedule, this is a team that has been tested already this season and should come into the weekend hungry to show what it can do in one of the bigger series in the nation this weekend.
AU pitcher Levale Speigner
One difference North Carolina brings to the 2002 season is power at the plate. After hitting just 30 home runs last season, the lowest for a North Carolina team since 1978, the Tar Heels have come out bombing this season and already have 16 home runs in 11 games.
Leading the way in the power department is a pair hard-hitters in Sean Farrell and Ron Braun. Hitting .316, Farrell has four home runs and 13 runs batted in. Braun is batting just .298 but has four home runs and 14 runs batted in. In what has become a feast or famine so far this season, North Carolina has a team batting average of just .269 despite its home run production.
North Carolina isn't the only team that has improved its offensive production this season as the same can be said for the Tigers. Hitting .322 as a team, Auburn is scoring just a shade under 10 runs per game and has double-figures in hits in 13 of 15 contests this season. Leading the way continues be designated hitter/catcher Bobby Huddleston. Hitting .481 with two doubles, eight home runs and 16 runs batted in, the junior from Montgomery has carried the Tigers throughout the season from the middle of the order. He had a 11-game hitting streak snapped in a 13-1 win over UAB Tuesday night.
In addition to Huddleston, Auburn has seven regulars hitting over .300 on the season led by Jonathan Schuerholz's .452 average. Junior college transfer Mike Mueller is also hitting .400 on the season with four home runs and 16 runs batted in. Leading the team in home runs following back-to-back days with a long ball in wins over UAB and Samford this week, catcher Trent Pratt is hitting .344 with five home runs and a team-best 25 runs batted in.
Colby Paxton will get the start Saturday for the Tigers.
Friday night the Tigers have national player of the week Eric Brandon on the mound as they shake up the rotation a little this week. The sophomore from Nashville is 2-0 on the season with an earned run average of just 1.80 following his perfect game against Murray State last Saturday. He will face sophomore left-hander Daniel Moore from North Carolina, who is 1-0 on the year with an ERA of 6.89.
On Saturday Colby Paxton will square off with Scott Autrey from North Carolina. Paxton, also a sophomore, is 3-1 on the season with an ERA of 4.35 while Autrey, a junior right-hander, is 0-1 with a 6.59 earned run average. Sunday afternoon the Tigers have ace Levale Speigner going against freshman right-hander Garry Bakker. Speigner is 3-1 with a 3.71 earned run average while Bakker is 1-0 with a sparkling 1.69 ERA.
Game times for the weekend are 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Saturday the Plainsman Mall will be open beginning at 11 a.m. The Plainsman Mall is a tailgating area occupying the stretch of Donahue Drive that runs beside Plainsman Park. Sunday's game is Coca-Cola Family Day as well as Cellular One Team Photo Day.
Fans purchasing two adult tickets to Sunday's game will receive two free youth admissions. Also, the first 500 fans will receive an Auburn team photo that can be used for an autograph session to follow Sunday's game. The first edition of the Auburn baseball trading card set will also be given away Sunday.
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