Lexington, Ken.--This weekend when the Auburn Tigers take on the Kentucky Wildcats in a three-game series at Cliff Hagan Stadium, it will be the final SEC series for nine seniors that have seen both the good and bad college baseball has to offer in their careers. Perhaps the player that has seen more than most is center fielder Bruce Edwards.
Signed to a football scholarship out of Columbus (Miss.) High, Edwards quickly found out that the life of a football player in the Southeastern Conference wasn't what he had hoped it would be. Deciding to quit football in favor of baseball at Auburn, Edwards' career has been up and down but will finish on a high note as a senior.
Hitting .323 this season with 19 RBI and leading the team with 27 stolen bases, Edwards has been the catalyst for an Auburn offense that has scored 357 runs. The run total is the highest in the Tom Slater era at Auburn and ranks sixth in the SEC this season.
Edwards has been a solid leadoff man this year for the Tigers.
His good year comes on the heels of a disappointing junior campaign when Edwards hit just .225 and stole 14-14 bases. As a sophomore Edwards had a strong year at the plate helping the Tigers to a NCAA Regional bid in Tallahassee. In 57 games Edwards hit .313 with one home run and 13 stolen bases in 17 attempts. He says that despite the ups and downs, his career at Auburn has been all he hoped it would be.
"I couldn't have asked for anything more," Edwards says. "There is so much hidden stuff that you just don't expect to happen here. You knew you were going to have a great atmosphere playing in front of a few thousand fans every time out but just the relationships my family got to form with the fans and the relationships with guys who play other sports, that's going to be irreplaceable when I leave. It's just good memories."
When Edwards hangs up his spikes following Saturday's game, he'll leave Auburn as one of the most prolific base stealers in school history. Going into the series, Edwards is 55-62 in his career, putting him just two behind Clete Thomas for fifth on the career list. His success percentage of 89 percent is also one of the best in Auburn history. With a chance to move up the list, Edwards says all he's concerned about is enjoying the time he has with his teammates one last go around.
"It's my last one," Edwards says. "It is going to be memorable. This past weekend was real memorable with it being my last weekend at Plainsman Park. It's my last time to go out and do battle with these guys, especially the seniors. It's going to mean a lot because I have enjoyed every moment here."
Auburn enters the weekend with an overall record of 29-24 with an 8-19 mark in conference play. After starting the season 18-3 and moving into the Top 10 in the country, the Tigers have fallen on hard times due to inconsistent pitching and injuries. Edwards says while they won't reach their goals, the main focus of the team right now is to finish strong and win the series against Kentucky.
"It is very important," Edwards says. "Coach (Tommy) Slater has really stressed to us to leave this program in better shape than when we came in. To go out and give some advice to the younger guys and finish out with a series win is going to be very important."
Game times for the series are set for 6 p.m. on Thursday, 5:30 on Friday night and noon on Sunday. All times are central with the Friday and Sunday games scheduled to be shown regionally on Fox Sports Net.