Move Of Wiggins Makes Tigers Stronger

Auburn takes on Elon this weekend in a three-game series at Plainsman Park.

Auburn, Ala.--Last season John Madden may have been Auburn's most valuable player on the baseball diamond after he posted a SEC-best 1.77 ERA in 44 appearances out of the Tiger bullpen. He was 6-2 with seven saves and figured into well over half of Auburn's wins on the season.

By the end of the 2006 season Peter Wiggins could be the one everybody is talking about for the Auburn pitching staff. A starter the first weekend of the season, Wiggins was moved to the bullpen in week two and has responded with three wins on the young season. Despite struggles at times, he is quickly adapting to life out of the pen and says he's getting more and more used to it every time out.

"It has been kind of a change of mentality," Wiggins says. "As a starter you kind of have to learn to conserve and set up batters different ways. Coming out of the pen, especially being a set-up guy, you go 1-2-3. You don't have to worry about setting them up, you can go all out with them. It's not as stressful. I feel great down there in the pen. Anything I could do to help the team I was willing to do."

A transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Wiggins has shown the ability to overpower opponents at times with his fastball and other times he's shown that he still has a lot to learn. On the year he is 3-0 with an ERA of 4.00 in four appearances. His nine innings pitched is fourth on the team at the moment and he says that he believes it will come down the more used to the bullpen he gets.

"The anticipation is the worst," Wiggins says. "It gets on your nerves having to wait. I'm a guy that is usually all out. I can't hold back anything. I'm usually in the pen going 100 percent and usually too early. I have been working with Josh Blake and he's been calming me down. That is the hardest thing."

With Wiggins in the pen the Tigers have junior Chris Dennis (1-0, 2.45 ERA), sophomore Brett Butts (1-1, 4.97) and freshman Evan Crawford (0-1, 5.67) in the starting rotation. In the bullpen along with Wiggins, junior Johnny Thompson, sophomore Clarence Nicely and freshmen Luke Greinke and Bryan Woodall have all shown the ability to pitch on this level. Wiggins says that day by day the staff is coming together and he's just fortunate to play his own small part in what could be big success down the road.

"We're pretty deep on the staff right now," Wiggins says. "Some of the young guys are starting to step up and take a role. They're doing a great job with it and I'm just happy that I'm able to pitch and do what I can do for the team."

This weekend the Tigers will be challenged by Elon. A little-known team outside of baseball circles, the Phoenix are a very dangerous club as evidenced by their series the opening weekend at South Carolina. Despite losing two of three, Elon was only outscored 14-9 in three games. Since that time they are 3-1 including a victory over Duke.

A small-ball team that relies on getting baserunners on and moving them up, Elon doesn't have a home run in seven games this season. Despite the lack of power they have scored 52 runs and have 13 doubles. Leading the way is Chris Price, who has eight hits in 18 at-bats this season and leads the team with 11 runs batted in. A deep team, Elon has 15 different players that have driven in at least one run this season.

On the mound Lance Cole is the ace of the Elon staff to this point. With a record of 2-0 on the season, Cole has given up just eight hits and one run in 13 2/3 innings this season. Fellow starter Matt Chastain (1-0, 2.08) has allowed just 11 hits in 13 innings and should also be a weekend starter for Elon.

For the Tigers Tyler Johnstone continues to lead the way at the plate with a .400 average and 11 runs scored this season in nine games. Catcher Josh Donaldson is right behind him at .368 with six doubles and 11 RBI this season.

Andy Bennett leads the Tigers in RBI and is tied for the team lead in home runs.

First baseman Andy Bennett is hitting .359 with two home runs and a team-leading 13 runs batted in. Coming on strong is freshman Mike Bianucci, who has 11 hits and 17 at-bats with two home runs and eight RBI in just four games played.

Game times for the weekend are 4 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday with a 1 p.m. start scheduled for Sunday.

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories