Battle of the Tigers Set For Plainsman Park

Two teams hoping to jump-start a run at the Western Division baseball title meet this weekend on the Plains.

Auburn, Ala.--Continuing with a brutal stretch of 13 games in 19 days, the 20th-ranked Auburn Tigers (23-8, 5-4) play host to perennial powerhouse LSU (18-12, 3-5) this weekend at Plainsman Park for a crucial three-game series that will go a long way towards determining how the SEC's Western Division stacks up.

If pitching is what you crave, you have to look no further than Auburn this weekend to find all your heart desires. AU enters with a team ERA of just 3.02 while LSU counters with a staff loaded from top to bottom with quality arms. Things get started right away on Friday night with Auburn ace Levale Speigner on the mound against sophomore sensation Lane Mestepay for LSU. On the season Speigner is 6-2 with an ERA of 2.84 while Mestepay is 5-2 and sporting an earned run average of just 3.60.

In a change, sophomore Colby Paxton will get the start on Saturday for Auburn against freshman left-hander Jason Vargas for LSU. Paxton is 6-2 with a 3.59 ERA while Vargas is 1-1 with a sparkling 3.07 earned run average. Sunday's getaway game features Eric Brandon for Auburn against junior right-hander Bo Pettit for LSU. Brandon is 3-1 on the season with a 2.68 ERA while Pettit is 3-4 with an ERA of 4.05.

"It's another big SEC weekend," Auburn coach Steve Renfroe said. "It looks like two teams that are fairly similar. I think they are better offensively and I like the arms they have. Obviously, Mestepay has been there and won a lot of awards last year and Pettit is a guy that's going to be drafted. He has a great arm and super numbers. Vargas is a kid we've heard a lot about. We don't know much about him we've just heard reports and know he came highly recommended. I think it's going to be a heck of a series and we're looking forward to it and we're glad to be home. We've been on the road quite a bit and I think that's going to be good for our players."

Going home is definitely something to look forward to for this Auburn team. Winners of 20 of their last 33 games at Hitchcock Field at Plainsman Park, the Tigers will attempt to keep that success this weekend against the Fighting Tigers of LSU. Pitching has been where Auburn has hung its hat this season and at home the Tigers have been particularly tough on the mound. With a team ERA of just 1.20 the last five home games while allowing opponents to hit just .172 with 10 runs and 27 hits, Auburn should welcome the friendly confines after playing seven of its last eight games on the road.

At the plate Auburn will be led by the foursome of Javon Moran, Jonathan Schuerholz, Bobby Huddleston and Trent Pratt. The speedy lead-off man, Moran has come out of a funk lately and has become the feared man at the top of the order that the Auburn coaching staff and fans hoped to see. The only player to start all 31 games this season for the Tigers, Moran is hitting .313 with eight stolen bases.

All Schuerholz has done is lead the team in batting average, on-base percentage and stolen bases for much of this season while splitting time between the middle infield spots and third base. With an average of .411 and a perfect 12-for-12 in stolen bases, the junior has been a spark for the Auburn offense this season.

Senior catcher Trent Pratt.

Leading the team with a .437 average, Huddleston, coming off an injury to his side, homered in Auburn's 6-1 win at South Alabama Wednesday night and appears to be back to his form from the beginning of the season. The same is true of Pratt, who leads the team with seven home runs and 32 RBI. After a mid-season struggle to find his form, he is once again hitting the ball to all fields, a sure sign he has found his stroke.

There will be plenty of entertainment for the fans this weekend as Friday night's 6:30 start will be followed by a fireworks show. Saturday the National Champion Women's Swimming team from Auburn will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at 3 p.m. following Auburn's A-Day football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium, which begins at 1 p.m. Also the first 500 fans in attendance will receive an insulated cooler. Sunday the first pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.


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