Coming into the season both Jeroloman and Hulett say they expected to play some, but neither were prepared for what was awaiting them. Winning the shortstop and second base jobs outright just weeks into the season, both have been mainstays in the lineup since SEC play started and have been invaluable to a team that needed solid defensive play because of a lack of offensive firepower in the batting order.
But things haven't always been easy. Trying to adjust to life as a college student is difficult enough as a freshman, but add in playing in the most difficult baseball league in the country and you normally have a recipe for disaster. That hasn't been the case with Jeroloman and Hulett, who have only gotten better as the season progresses.
In the last 18 games for the Tigers, Jeroloman is hitting .306 with seven multiple-hit games during that stretch. On the season the smooth-fielding shortstop is batting .270 with nine doubles, one home run and 16 runs batted in. He also is on pace to set the single-season Auburn record for sacrifice bunts with 17 already this season. The current Auburn record is held by volunteer assistant coach Rob Macrory with 21.
All in all, he says this has already been a rewarding season no matter what happens from this point forward because he's learned what it takes to be successful on this level.
Chuck Jeroloman during an early practice.
"It mainly comes down to not getting down on yourself when you've had a bad game," Jeroloman notes. "You play so many games that you have to just put it behind you and come out ready to play the next day...it took some while to get used to that at first but about two weeks into it Pratty (Trent Pratt) and the guys kind of got everyone calmed down to work forward to where we are now."
While Hulett has been a little more consistent at the plate for the Tigers this season than his counterpart, he has also seen his average rise considerably the last month. Hitting .310 with 11 doubles and 22 RBI, the Shreveport, La., native is hitting .347 over the span of his last 18 games with eight multiple-hit games during that time. On the season the second baseman leads the team in walks with 23, is third on the team in runs scored with 38 and is also third on the team with an on-base percentage of .408.
Tug Hulett takes a lead at Clemson early in the season.
Also struggling with the adjustment as a freshman, Hulett notes that it took a little while to get used to facing top-notch players day in and day out.
"The speed of the game has been the most difficult thing for me to get used to," Hulett says. "Everybody is somebody's best player. The pitching staffs, there's not that easy guy that you're going to go out there and tee off on. There's a lot of concentration and focus that you have to maintain through the whole season.
"My key has been some adjustments we made and just relaxing and saying, ‘Look, you're pressing too hard, you're not even thinking about watching the ball just watch the ball and hit it.' That's been the biggest adjustment that I've made."
Another adjustment for both has been getting used to playing side-by-side on the field. It's not often that you have a true freshman in the middle infield in the SEC, but it's almost unheard of to have two playing at the same time. Luckily for Auburn the two have hit it off since the first day they met and now they're on pace to set the all-time single season record for double plays by an Auburn team. Hulett says that he knew this was going to be special from the first time they got on the field together.
"Sometimes you just get a feel for a guy," Hulett says with a laugh. "You feel like you know him right away. It helps because he's my roommate too. We spend a lot of time together. We're on the same page and we're both a little goofy so it kind of worked out."