Baseball Tigers Look To Bite Bulldogs

Winners of 12 straight games over Georgia heading into last season, the Auburn Tigers seek revenge after dropping all four meetings to the Bulldogs in 2001.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers (30-19, 12-12) hope to continue the momentum from the previous weekend as they close out the regular season home conference schedule when they face the Georgia Bulldogs (28-19, 14-10) for a three-game series at Plainsman Park.

The Tigers enter the weekend leading Mississippi State by one-half game for seventh-place overall in the SEC standings and have a magic number of four combined wins or Arkansas losses to earn a spot in the SEC Baseball Tournament to be held in Hoover May 22-26.

"It's obviously a big week for Auburn baseball," Auburn coach Steve Renfroe says. "We're playing what we think is a very versatile and very good Georgia club. But it's in our park and it's something that we have much to play for. Just like last weekend we feel these last three weekends were crucial for us. Now we're getting down to where every weekend is bigger than the last one and we need to win this series at home."

Pitching will be a big key for the Tigers this weekend as Georgia brings perhaps the top offensive club in the league to Auburn. In just 46 games the Bulldogs have hit 58 home runs as compared to just 37 for their opponents and have a team batting average of .313. Chaz Lytle leads the way at the plate for Georgia with a batting average of .410 and also has three home runs and 28 runs batted in.

Colby Paxton will pitch for the Tigers on Friday night.

David Coffey is the power-man for Coach Ron Perno with 11 home runs and 39 RBI and veteran Adam Swann also can hit the long ball with nine home runs and 35 RBI. With power up and down the lineup this will be a big test for the Tiger pitching staff.

"This is a heck of an offense," Renfroe says. "They're one of the best offensive teams in the league. They can come at you from a lot of different ways, left-right and speed-power. We will have to pitch very, very well to be able to stop them. That's my biggest concern is that they are just very good."

Auburn will use the same rotation for the third-straight series as sophomore Colby Paxton takes the mound Friday night for the 6:30 start against senior Bill Sharpton for Georgia. Paxton is 8-3 with a 4.35 ERA while Sharpton is 6-4 with an earned run average of 5.61.

Saturday's start time has been moved back from 3 p.m. to 6:30 because of graduation exercises on the Auburn campus and the NCAA Men's Tennis Tournament at the Luther Young Tennis Complex. Junior Levale Speigner gets the start for the Tigers against sophomore Matt Woods of Georgia. Speigner is 7-5 with a 4.25 earned run average this season while Woods is 2-0 with a 4.10 ERA.

Junior Levale Speigner will start game two for the Tigers.

Sunday's final game has sophomore Eric Brandon taking the hill against freshman Mickey Westphal. Brandon is 3-2 with an ERA of 5.03 while Westphal is 4-3 and has allowed 46 runs in 62 and two/thirds innings this season.

Center fielder Javon Moran continues to be the story for the Tigers at the plate. The sophomore leads the team in hitting in SEC play with a .343 average and also has 18 runs scored and 14 RBI. Moved from the leadoff spot to the third hole 15 games ago, Moran has hit .391 in that time with 10 runs batted in. Moran had the best month of his career in April when he hit .397 with 13 runs scored and 14 runs batted in.

Freshman left fielder Sean Gamble has been hitting the ball well for the Tigers.

Along with Moran it has been the freshmen that have picked up the pace for the Tigers. Left fielder Sean Gamble has been on fire of late with a current nine-game hitting streak. In that time the Montgomery native is hitting .341. He has been even better at home with a .435 average his last five games at Plainsman Park and has hit safely in 10 of his last 12 games within the friendly confines.

Not to be outdone the combination of shortstop Chuck Jeroloman and Tug Hulett has done its share of damage as well. Jeroloman is hitting .333 in his last four SEC series and has five multiple-hit games in his last eight SEC starts. Hulett has been even better with a team-best .359 average in the last 10 games with a team-leading 10 runs scored and 10 RBI during that time. With multiple-hit games in six of his last eight SEC starts, Hulett has added to his second-best SEC team batting average of .321. His on-base percentage of .400 in conference play leads all Auburn players.

In what should be an exciting weekend with graduation and an SEC Men's Regional Tennis Tournament on campus, the baseball stadium will be a good place to be with several outstanding promotions taking place. Friday night is Insulated Lunch Bag Night (first 500 fans) along with a postgame fireworks show. Saturday is Flashlight Key Chain Day (first 500 fans) and Sunday is Family Day. Any family that buys two adult tickets gets two free youth admissions to the game. The fourth installment of Auburn Baseball Cards for the 2002 season will also be given away. In addition, to commemorate Mother's Day, the first 100 Mothers in attendance will receive a free ticket to the May 14 game against South Alabama at Plainsman Park. Also, the baseball lettermen will be on campus for their annual meeting on Saturday.

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