"Team" Chemistry Leads Baseball Tigers

Led by veteran leadership and youthful excitement, the Tigers continue to fight for a postseason berth.

Auburn, Ala.--When the Auburn baseball Tigers left Tuscaloosa just over two weeks ago, things seemed bleak on the Plains. The team had just been swept by their arch-rival and had given two games away because of poor play down the stretch. Just when all seemed lost the team pulled together for a stretch run that began with a sweep over Vanderbilt just over one week ago.

Then came the Georgia Bulldogs. After playing three one-run games against the Commodores, the Tigers again found themselves in that position against the red and black. Clawing and scratching for their collective lives, the Tigers got two huge wins on the weekend and now stand just one game from qualifying for the SEC Tournament. With heroes up and down the lineup from senior Trent Pratt to freshmen Tug Hulett, Steven Register, Arnold Hughey and Doug Vines and everyone in between, this team has become just that, a team.

"I think that's the thing people need to realize," Auburn head coach Steve Renfroe says. "When you watch these guys, if you can't enjoy watching them play then you really don't like baseball. All you really have on your mind is one thing. That's a W--nothing else matters. But if you like baseball and kids who compete with their heart you can't walk out of this place and be unhappy with these guys. This is a bunch, as young as they are, that I think people can tie to that heart and character and say, ‘Hey, this has got a chance.' That's what we hope people will do."

In the recent record books you can't find a team in SEC play that has played six one-run conference games in a row. That's just what Auburn has done the past two weekends. Relying on a multitude of players to come up with big plays, the Tigers were able to keep their heads above water long enough for someone to make the game-deciding play. This past weekend that was Pratt. On Friday night his single started the Auburn rally that eventually led to him scoring the game-winning run on a Hulett single. Sunday he doubled home Jonathan Schuerholz with the winning run in the 11th inning to give Auburn the series win. Still the senior refused to take any of the credit, instead wanting to talk about the team and what they've gone through to get to this point.

"I think last year we may have gone through six but we lost six in a row by one run," Pratt said with a laugh. "That just shows a lot about this team. We're young but this team hasn't given up all year. We're going to keep fighting, that's what we did last weekend and this weekend. We never doubted ourselves. We finally came through and we had everyone step up with a big hit to keep it going."

While this group does not have the big names like Auburn teams in the past, it has spread the wealth around to get the job done. In perhaps their best offensive weekend of the season the Tigers accounted for 27 runs and 46 hits while pounding out five home runs in the three games vs. Georgia. A couple of the hitting stars for the weekend were junior Bobby Huddleston and sophomore Scott Schade. Huddleston was 5-13 with six RBI in the three games while Schade was the overlooked player of the weekend with eight hits in 14 at-bats with six runs driven in. All-in-all this was definitely a weekend to be remembered, Huddleston says.

"This was the biggest ‘team' weekend we've had," he notes of the Tigers' series win over Georgia. "You had Tug going 5-5. Chuck (Jeroloman), probably besides me the slowest person on the team, getting a triple and a big triple, which we needed. You had pitching with Arnold and Register, everybody. This was a big weekend. Pratt came through. Schuerholz came through. Javon (Moran), Sean (Gamble), Doug, everybody. This was what we needed for a momentum builder going into Arkansas, the SEC Tournament and (NCAA) regionals."

The Tigers added to their strong regular season finish with a 6-4 victory over South Alabama on Tuesday night to end their streak one-run decisions. That victory certainly won't help Auburn's chances of receiving an NCAA bid. The 15th-ranked Jaguars entered the makeup game with a record of 36-14 and have wins over top-ranked Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida State to show for their season. The Tigers also defeated the Jaguars 6-3 back on April 3.

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