Baseball Analysis: Donaldson Sees Progress

Auburn junior Josh Donaldson talks about the weekend series against Vandy, his future plans, and the direction of the program.

Auburn, Ala.--During a weekend in which Auburn was officially eliminated from consideration for the SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover by losing two of three to the top-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores at Plainsman Park, it may have been the best baseball the Tigers have played since winning two against LSU in Baton Rouge over one month ago.

Although the series didn't turn out as they would have hoped, the Tigers take some confidence of the weekend knowing they can play with the nation's top-ranked eam if they limit their mistakes and get solid starting pitching.

That was the recipe for the weekend as the Tigers played solid baseball in all phases. Despite some mental errors on the basepaths in Friday's game and an error or two along the way in the field, Auburn finished the weekend strong with one of its better games of the year on Sunday. Behind the starting pitching of Bryan Woodall and some timely hitting by the middle of the order, Auburn won 5-4, a victory that Josh Donaldson says takes some of the sting away from an otherwise disappointing season.

"To end the season at home by beating the number one team in the country is good," Donaldson says. "I felt like we were in the game all three games with them, we just didn't catch a couple of breaks. We battled and showed a little resiliency and won the game.

"I think any time you play the number one team in the country, no matter what your situation is, you want to go out there and beat them," he adds. "A lot of guys that might be playing for the last time here, we were playing for pride. We wanted to give it one more go for Auburn. We continued to lay it on the line to hopefully get a win."

Showing his skills on Sunday in perhaps his final game at Plainsman Park with a home run, a double, and four runners thrown out from behind the plate, Donaldson is expected to be a very high draft choice and likely to skip his senior season in favor of turning pro. He says that if Sunday was his last game at home in an Auburn uniform he's really enjoyed his time on the Plains.

"I'm really glad to have done the things I've done right now," Donaldson says. "Hopefully, what I've done here at Auburn I'll continue to do successfully. I just hope that it hasn't gone unseen and I have left something for the younger guys that they'll continue to love the game and play hard every day."

Both Donaldson and Mike Bianucci (3) will have the chance to move to the next level after this season.

Not recruited by Coach Tommy Slater and his staff, but a part of Slater's first team as a freshman in 2005, Donaldson has seen the ups and downs of the last three years as closely as anyone. He says while this season didn't turn out like anyone had hoped, he feels like the program is headed in the right direction and has the right man in charge for the future.

"The last two years we've played a lot of young guys and I'm not giving that as an excuse for us not winning games, but what I do know as a player is the more games you play the better you get by playing summer ball and in the SEC every day," Donaldson says. "I think they'll have that experience the next couple of years and have some guys that will be able to contribute.

"Hopefully, they'll continue to get better because I know the coaching staff here is going to make them work and be there for them. I wish them the best if I do not return and I hope the program gets headed in the right direction."

Player of the Week: Senior Andy Bennett finished off his home career in style with five hits in seven at-bats over the weekend, including his first home run of the season. For the weekend he had three RBI and scored a run. His two-run home run on Sunday proved to be the game winner for the Tigers. It should also be mentioned that both Josh Donaldson and Mike Bianucci had their best weekends since early in the season with a combined 11 hits in 23 at-bats with two home runs and eight RBI.

Pitcher of the Week: Bryan Woodall gets the nod in a close decision over freshman Austin Hubbard. Woodall allowed just one run on four hits in five innings in Sunday's victory. Coming on in relief earlier in the weekend, Hubbard pitched two and two/thirds scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out three.

Stock Report: While it must go down because Auburn is officially out of tournament consideration in the league, the Tigers played good baseball against the Commodores and could have easily won two games against the nation's top team.

Updated SEC Standings
1) Vanderbilt 19-8 43-10
2) Arkansas 17-10 37-16
3) South Carolina 15-12 38-15
4) Mississippi State 14-11 32-16
5) Ole Miss 14-13 33-20
6) Florida 14-13 27-26
7) Alabama 13-14 29-23
8) Kentucky 12-14-1 33-17-1
9) LSU 12-14-1 29-23-1
10) Tennessee 11-14 30-22
11) Georgia 10-17 22-31
12) Auburn 9-18 29-24

Friday's Games
Vanderbilt 10, Auburn 5
Alabama 10, Arkansas 0
Florida 19, LSU 3
Mississippi State 4, Georgia 2
Kentucky 8, Ole Miss 1
South Carolina 7, Tennessee 1

Saturday's Games
Vanderbilt 6, Auburn 5 (10 innings)
Arkansas 12, Alabama 5
Florida 8, LSU 4
Ole Miss 9, Kentucky 2
Tennessee 4, South Carolina 3
Mississippi State at Georgia (ppd.)

Sunday's Games
Auburn 5, Vanderbilt 4
Alabama 9, Arkansas 5
LSU 9, Florida 4
Kentucky 9, Ole Miss 7
South Carolina 13, Tennessee 7
Georgia 2,5-Mississippi State 1,3 (7 inning DH)

SEC Schedule Week 10
Auburn at Kentucky
Alabama at Mississippi State
Ole Miss at Arkansas
LSU at Vanderbilt
Tennessee at Florida
Georgia at South Carolina

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