Tigers Open SEC Play At Florida

The Auburn Tigers start the SEC schedule this weekend with a three-game series at Florida.

Auburn, Ala.--The shorter and busier than usual pre-conference season, the Auburn Tigers (11-5) open conference play this weekend in Gainesville against the Florida Gators (11-3).

Looking to get back to Hoover for the SEC Tournament for the first time in four seasons, Coach Tommy Slater says he feels like his Auburn team is playing well as the open SEC play.

"The kids are excited," Slater says. "We're looking forward to starting SEC play. I really like our club. I wouldn't trade any of our guys for anybody else's. I love the way we're playing infield defense. Matt Hall is just a joy to watch at shortstop."

Last season was a year of ups and downs for the Tigers as they played well by winning two of three against Arizona State, but a sweep at the hands of the Georgia Bulldogs on the road to open the conference season put them in a hole they could never climb out of last spring. Finishing 10-20 in the league, Auburn failed to reach postseason play for the second consecutive season.

Auburn should get a boost this weekend with the expected return of true freshman second baseman Justin Hargett. Hitting .348 this season, Hargett injured an ankle against VMI and missed the last two games of the series and also two against Appalachian State. In his absence David Cunningham more than picked up the slack. Slater says getting Hargett back should be good news for his team.

"We should get Hargett back this weekend," Slater says. "I don't know if he'll be available Friday, but we are taking him with us. Hopefully, before the end of the weekend, we'll get him back out there. We love his bat in our lineup. He's an on-base percentage guy and a good player."

Auburn will send two freshmen and one sophomore to the mound this weekend as redshirt freshman Grant Dayton (1-0, 0.64 ERA) gets the call on Friday night, sophomore Scott Shuman (2-0, 2.70) on Saturday and Cory Luckie on Sunday. The Gators will counter with sophomore Billy Bullock (1-2, 3.31), junior Patrick Keating (1-0, 2.63) and freshman Tommy Toledo (2-0, 3.00) respectively.

Avery Barnes leads the Gators at the plate, hitting .432, while the most dangerous Florida hitter remains infielder Cole Figueroa. This season he's hitting .360 with two home runs and a team-high 22 RBI. As a team Florida is hitting .299 and has a team ERA of just 3.32.

Game times for the weekend are 5:30 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday. All times are central.

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