Ask Coach Steve Renfroe or any other Tiger player and they'll probably say it's just like any other SEC series because they are all important. Sitting at 9-9 in conference play, the Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa to face arch-rival Alabama (35-7, 13-5) in a pivotal SEC Western Division showdown. Rival or not, this one's important.
Renfroe says Pratt can be a force in the Auburn batting order when the senior is hitting the ball well.
"It's a big weekend," senior catcher Trent Pratt says. "Not just because we're playing Alabama, but because it's big like every series in the SEC. We're kind of looking at it like it's not any different than any game we play. All the SEC games count and they're huge. This is just another one. We're just going in there. We know that they are real talented and real good. We're just going to go in there and fight and claw and hope we come out with one or two of them."
If that happens you can bet that Pratt will be a big reason why. Auburn's top performer early in the season with 19 RBI and a .455 batting average through eight games, the senior has struggled since getting off to a hot start. Hitting .299 now with 38 RBI, but a team-leading seven home runs, Pratt says that he hopes last weekend's series against Mississippi State, in which he was 4-13 at the plate including two hits and two runs batted in on Sunday, will be the start to a strong finish for his season.
"It's been tough," Pratt notes. "Sometimes you just go through those slumps and I'm the type of guy when I go through them it's tough for me to come out of them. I'm kind of hard on myself some times. I'm just out here to do anything to help the team win, whether it's bunting a guy over or doing anything. That's what this team is about. When we've played big or won big games it seems like it's been someone different every time we've played. Hopefully, I'll be given the chance to help the team win, like drive in a big run or throw somebody out or block a ball or do anything. I think every guy on the team looks at it like their role on the team is the same way."
Nobody knows better than Renfroe what a hot-hitting Pratt can mean to the Tigers. "Hopefully, Trent is coming out of it," says Renfroe. "Trent can get on a tear. He's kind of a streaky guy. If he went off he could really become a force over the next few weeks."
For a team that had been struggling to find some offensive rhythm, Sunday's big 19-7 win over Mississippi State was a big surprise to many in attendance. Showing offensive punch up and down the order with seven players having at least two hits, the Tigers jumped on the Bulldogs early and cruised to the series win. That alone is what Pratt says is different about this week as the team prepares for yet another tough road test in the SEC.
"Obviously, it feels better to win two than lose two so the atmosphere is always different that next Monday at practice," Pratt says. "The atmosphere might be a little different, but I don't know if we feel any different. We know that we have a job to do. These are big games for us so we can move on. We're not worrying about playing Alabama. This is a series for us and a game and we're just going to look at it like that."
The Tigers and Tide get the series started at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium and play single games on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.