Auburn, Ala.--Looking to keep the early season momentum going, the Auburn Tigers travel to Mobile this weekend to face three solid teams in the Coca-Cola Classic on the campus of the University of South Alabama.
Currently 7-1 on the season after a victory over Troy Tuesday night, the Tigers are riding high with a Top 30 ranking by Baseball America for the first time since the 2004 season. Sophomore slugger Mike Bianucci says the Tigers are playing well and it's not just one thing but every phase of the game.
"From last year I think we're a lot better in terms of defensively and pitching," Bianucci says. "Without question that's a lot better. Just our approach at the plate, especially with two strikes, is phenomenal compared to last year."
Auburn will need to play well as they face a solid field this weekend in Mobile led by 2006 NCAA Regional participants Jacksonville and South Alabama. Friday the Tigers will take on the Jacksonville Dolpins at 2:30 p.m. Currently 4-5 on the season after being swept by South Florida last weekend, the Dolphins are a club that has the potential to score some runs led by former Alabama player Mike McCallister. Hitting .385 this season, McCallister tore up pitching last season with 10 home runs and 54 RBI.
Sophomore Bryan Woodall gets the start against Jacksonville.
This weekend opens the season for the Michigan State Spartans under second-year coach David Grewe. The Spartans were 26-30 last season and finished with a 13-19 record in Big 10 play. A solid team offensively, Michigan State is led by the solid duo of Kyle Day and Steve Gerstenberger. As a freshman Day hit .315 and led the team with 52 runs scored, 10th most in MSU history. Gerstenberger hit .331 and led the Big 10 in triples with seven.
Auburn will face Michigan State at 4:30 Saturday afternoon in game three of the classic with Sunday's contest against South Alabama scheduled for 2:30. The Jaguars come into the classic weekend with a record of 3-2 on the year with losses to Southern Miss and Mercer. Normally an offensive juggernaut, the Jaguars are hitting just .309 as a team coming into the weekend with Ray Kruml leading the way at .412 with all seven hits being singles. For the year USA has just 11 extra-base hits.
On the mound Stephen Boyd is the top South Alabama hurler to start the season with a record of 2-0 on one start. His seven innings lead all Jaguar pitchers and he has allowed three earned runs and seven hits during that work. Out of the pen Tyler Kerns is USA's most dependable arm with three appearances already this season and an ERA of just 2.70.
Auburn will keep its weekend rotation the same as sophomores Bryan Woodall, Paul Burnside and Evan Crawford will get the call on the mound this weekend. The trio have a combined record of 5-0 on the season and they have allowed just two unearned runs in 30 innings this season. As a team Auburn has allowed just 19 earned runs in 75 innings this season.