"When you play Arkansas there are a few things," Slater says. "Arkansas goes about their business and is as well a coached team as this league has every year. Their pitchers are outstanding. They pitch to both sides of the plate and Dave Journ is as good as it gets. They pitch in and pitch out.
"Their position players get after it," he adds. "They've got great power and great speed. I have the utmost respect for the Arkansas club every year and just the way they play. We're going to have to go out and we'll have our hands full. I haven't seen an Arkansas team yet that doesn't pitch extremely well and doesn't get after it offensively with a combination of power and speed."
While this year's Arkansas team isn't playing like the teams Dave Van Horn has fielded the last few years since coming over from Nebraska, the Razorbacks have quality players both at the plate in the field. Hitting .292 as a team with 42 home runs, the Razorbacks are led by Logan Forsythe's .377 average while Andy Wilkins is next at .333 with seven home runs and 33 RBI. The power is supplied by Aaron Murphree. He is currently hitting .326 with 13 home runs and 34 RBI, although he's hitting just .154 in SEC games with one home run.
On the mound junior lefty Cliff Springston (4-0, 2.94 ERA) will get the call on Friday night against freshman Grant Dayton (3-1, 3.44) for the Tigers. On Saturday the Hogs send junior right-hander Justin Wells (1-0, 4.56) up against Auburn freshman Cory Luckie (3-2, 3.05) while sophomore lefty Dallas Keuchel (2-1, 3.19) takes the mound on Sunday against yet another Auburn freshman, right-hander Bradley Hendrix (1-0, 3.82).
One of the few Auburn veterans, junior Mike Bianucci is hitting .351 in conference play and has one of three Tiger home runs against the SEC.
Auburn just isn't young on the mound in 2008 though. What has been impressive for the Tigers this season is the play of the true freshmen in SEC games. Normally a freshman will struggle once conference action begins, but it hasn't been that way for several of Auburn's young players this season. First baseman Hunter Morris leads the SEC in hitting in conference games at .514 with a home run, two doubles, and seven RBI in nine games.
Trying to keep pace, left fielder Brian Fletcher is hitting .370 with a home run, triple, double, and five RBI. Center fielder Trent Mummey rounds out Auburn's impressive freshman trio at .333 with three doubles and five RBI and is the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week after hitting .560 with seven RBI and eight runs scored last week for the Tigers. Slater says all have done a tremendous job, but that's not a surprise to him.
"I think our kids have handled themselves well," Slater says. "I think almost to a man all of them are either maintaining and doing a little better in the league than they were overall. I think part of that is due to the non-conference schedule we played to prepare them. I'm very pleased with how our guys have been playing."
Auburn is looking to win its third consecutive series in SEC play for the first time since the 2003 season, but it won't be easy. Arkansas has won 11 of 14 games at Baum Stadium this season, a place the Tigers have struggled to win in the past. Auburn hasn't won a series at Arkansas since 2000 and is just 2-6 all-time in series in Fayetteville.
Game times for the weekend are 6:30 p.m CDT. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.