Slater Focused On Strong Finish To 2008

Auburn Coach Tommy Slater talks about his team and questions regarding job security.

Auburn, Ala.--Currently 28-25 overall and 11-16 in SEC play and in serious danger of missing the SEC Tournament for the fifth consecutive season, the fourth under Coach Tommy Slater, the Auburn Tigers find themselves in a tough situation this weekend facing the Western Division leading LSU Tigers in a three-game series at Plainsman Park.

The series may not be the biggest story of the weekend though as the questions linger about the job security of Slater after an up and down season in 2008. Headed for his fourth-straight losing season in conference play, Slater said that he hasn't spoken with anyone about job security and he remains focused on the task at hand.

"With 100 percent honesty I'm not even thinking about it," Slater said. "I'm thinking about our guys and playing and preparing our team. It's not on my mind. I'm focused on preparing this team and us going out and trying to win games."

In 2007 Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs came out with a strong statement of support for Slater at the end of the season. Slater said he hasn't spoken with Jacobs about his future because that's something that normally happens following the year.

"Typically we meet at the end of the year," Slater said. "They call me and I go over. When that occurs that's what I'll do. That's not something we've ever discussed during the season."

Despite the overall record the Tigers have shown improvements in nearly every facet of the game in 2008 even with seven freshmen seeing significant time in the field and three more on the mound. On offense Auburn is hitting .304 as a team compared to .295 last season. Currently the team has 53 home runs and 129 doubles after totals of just 38 and 104 last season.

On the mound the ERA is slightly higher at 4.70 compared to 4.59 in 2007, but opponent runs are down from 325 last season to 284 in 2008 thanks to a defense that is fielding .972 compared to .959 a year ago. Slater said when he looks at his team he can see improvement not only from one year to the next, but from the beginning of the season to now.

"We've been playing well," Slater said. "We played well last weekend against Ole Miss. We played well against Mississippi State. Other than our early pitching last night we played well. We're better today than we were at the beginning of the season. We're pitching better, we've caught it well all year. Up and down the lineup we've swung the bats pretty well. We've seen development out of each one of these guys. I think it's important to keep playing well, but we have been playing well."

Now with very slim hopes to making the SEC Tournament, Auburn has to find a way to try to finish the season on a high point with some momentum heading into 2009. Slater said after seeing his team come back from a very disappointing loss last Friday night to Ole Miss to win game two of the series, he's not worried about how his team will perform in the last series of the year.

"That has been the make up of this club all year long," Slater said. "I haven't seen them get down. I haven't seen them get overly excited. They have played the way you're supposed to play baseball which is the right way. They haven't let things bother them. I expect this weekend our guys will play as they've played for 53 games which is hard, getting after people, and playing to win."

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