Donaldson Catching On Quickly At New Position

Auburn, Ala.--Last weekend was a successful one for the Auburn baseball team as the Tigers swept the visiting Hofstra Pride in a three-game series at Plainsman Park.

In addition to explosive debut at the plate of SEC Player of the Week Mike Bianucci, the move of Josh Donaldson to catcher paid huge dividends for the Tigers over the course of the weekend.

After working at catcher much of last fall in addition to seeing some action at third base, Donaldson was all set to be the opening day catcher for the Tigers, but an ankle injury to Bianucci meant Donaldson would have to play third base for a short time.

That worked fine for two weekends, but the development of South Alabama transfer Josh Stapleton at third base meant Donaldson could move behind the plate for the first time this season. The results were better than anyone could have expected.

In his first career game as a catcher, Donaldson picked off two Hofstra runners in a game that the Tigers won in extra innings on a Bianucci home run. On Saturday Donaldson again played well as Auburn won easily, but it was Sunday that showed Donaldson's true value to this team.

Donaldson throws to second during a weekend game.

Feeling confident in his abilities, Tommy Slater and his coaching staff turned the game over to Donaldson to call all of the pitches from behind the plate. The result was a four-hitter by four Auburn pitchers in a 5-2 win. Donaldson says the day was one he just felt comfortable with from the beginning.

"I felt like I had a pretty good feeling behind the plate calling pitches," Donaldson noes. "I had a pretty good feel of their hitters and what they wanted at the plate. I didn't want to give them anything they could handle.

"It just shows you what kind of coaching staff we have," Donaldson adds. "We have a great coaching staff and when they know I have a good feeling they'll turn it over to me and have confidence in me. That helps me a lot to be able to handle the pitchers and have them trust in me."

Showing good leadership behind the plate and the natural ability to handle a pitching staff, Donaldson also continues to swing the bat well for the Tigers at the plate. Starting all eight games, the sophomore is second on the team with a .412 average. He leads the team with 14 hits, six doubles and 22 total bases. He is second on the team with 11 RBI.

Although he's just beginning his second season, Donaldson is one of the most game-experienced players on Auburn's roster in 2006. Because of that he says that winning all three from Hofstra last weekend was a big boost for this team heading into Tuesday's 4 p.m. game against Troy.

"A sweep for us is a great thing," Donaldson says. "Friday night we had a great performance out of Mike Bianucci. I think that set the tempo for the rest of the weekend. We had a lot of energy and with this young team a sweep is a sweep no matter who you're playing."

With a record of 3-3 on the season after losing twice at Samford over the weekend, the Troy Trojans come to Plainsman Park Tuesday looking for success in a series that is one of the longest running for both schools. Meeting at least once in every season since 1991, the two schools have played a total of 42 times with Auburn winning 31. Since 2000 Auburn is 10-2 against the Trojans with the last loss coming in 2004.

The Tigers (5-3) will send true freshman Bryan Woodall to the mound for the 4 p.m. start on Tuesday in a game that will likely see at least four different pitchers before the day is done. Woodall is 0-0 with an ERA of 6.00 in just three innings this season.

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