Fletcher Looking For Bigger And Better In 09

Auburn sophomore outfielder Brian Fletcher talks about getting ready for a new Auburn baseball season.

Auburn, Ala.--An All-SEC Freshman team selection last season after hitting .324 with 10 home runs, 17 doubles and 42 RBI, left fielder Brian Fletcher is back for more as a sophomore for the Auburn Tigers under first-year coach John Pawlowski.

If his play in last fall's Orange and Blue World Series is any indication, his freshman numbers may just be scratching the surface of his play in 2009.

In three games for the Orange team, Fletcher was 7-15 with a home run. That included a huge day in the finale of the three-game series when he came through with five hits, drove in three runs and scored four runs. Fletcher says that while there is still a learning process involved with the new coaching staff so far things gone well for both he and the team.

"It has gone great," Fletcher says of training with the new coaching staff. "They are keeping us up-tempo. We're practicing hard and everyone is doing their part. I think mentally and physically we'll be ready for the season.

"Coming in we tried to focus, especially position player-wise, on hitting," Fletcher adds. "Our hitting coach Heater (Matt Heath) and Duncan (volunteer coach Jeff Duncan) have done a great job. I think right now we're feeling more comfortable at the plate. I think we'll hit a lot better this year. I'm looking forward to it."

Despite his lack of size last season, Fletcher was one of the top power hitters on Auburn's team and had some mammoth home runs during the year. Now bigger and stronger, he notes that it's all about hard work and a little mother nature.

"I keep on working hard in the weight room," Fletcher says. "It's all about conditioning and getting our legs stronger. I feel a lot better. I'm still growing and hopefully I'll get a little bigger. I definitely feel stronger than I did last year."

Fletcher is just one of a large group of sophomores who got a ton of experience for the Tigers last season as freshmen. Hunter Morris, David Cunningham, Trent Mummey, Justin Hargett and Kevin Patterson all played a big part in a positional role while Grant Dayton, Bradley Hendrix and Cory Luckie got extensive time on the mound.

Even with Luckie out this season after having Tommy John surgery, the future is bright for the Tigers. At the plate the freshman class produced 72 doubles, 10 triples, 31 home runs, 214 runs scored, 186 RBI and 145 walks, accounting for 53 percent of Auburn's doubles, 67 percent of its triples, 53 percent of the home runs, 55 percent of the runs scored, 54 percent of the team's RBI and 64 percent of its walks. Fletcher says that because they got so much time on the field there is a bond that has developed that he believes will pay off during the 2009 season.

"I feel like last year we developed some chemistry," he says. "This year everyone kind of knows what their role is in the lineup. Having that thought in your head should help us out offensively."

Not that Fletcher needs much more help swinging the bat. Coming on strong in SEC play, he homered seven times in Auburn's last 16 games last season. He says that as the season went along he became more comfortable and that has carried over into the fall practices this year.

"It seems like there is a little relief," Fletcher says. "Getting the opportunity to play a lot last year, I really enjoyed it. Having that experience under your belt you know what to expect. Preparing is a little different because you know what to do. This season should be pretty fun and I'm looking forward to it."

With talent and experience returning the Tigers are hoping to get back to the SEC Tournament and postseason play following a 28-28 season in 2008. Fletcher says right now, while the players do individual drills, it's all about believing in themselves and having the knowledge that the team is going to get the job done this year.

"I think what it comes down to is having that confidence and that swagger," Fletcher says. "It's all about knowing when you go out there that you're going to be somebody. A lot of guys are building that in their heads and I think it will benefit us when the season comes."

Auburn, which is a week into full squad preseason drills, opens the season on Feb. 20th as Elon comes to Plainsman Park for a three-game series.

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