The good news for Jones and the Tigers is there is still hope. With a high RPI, the Tigers still have an outside shot at making the NCAA Tournament provided they can win a series this week. Who is standing in the way? Rival Alabama, that's who. For Jones having the chance to accomplish a goal and beat the Crimson Tide in the process would be the perfect ending to his career.
"That would be great," Jones says. "You always want to beat Alabama. For it to be for a regional would make it even more special.
"It's definitely special," he adds. "I grew up an Auburn fan and there has always been that rivalry. You always want to beat the teams in-state, but it's always fun playing them. We'll have a big crowd here. It will just be fun to get out there and compete."
Coming into the 2009 season, the goal for Jones and the Tigers was to make the SEC Tournament in Hoover. Absent since 2003, Auburn was looking to get back in the first season with John Pawlowski at the helm. Currently 29-24 overall and 9-18 in conference play, Auburn will again miss out on the tournament. Jones says while that is tough to deal with, the chance to be in the running for an NCAA Regional bid is something to play for this week.
"It was pretty disappointing when it was official last weekend," Jones says of being eliminated from the race for a berth in the league tournament. "We came back to the hotel feeling pretty bad, but we've still got a chance to make a regional if thinks work out right. We had to get over it. We won on Sunday and then again on Tuesday. It's real disappointing, but you can't let it affect your play. I'm still disappointed about it, but being able to make a regional would make up for that."
Even without the accomplishment of the first goal, Auburn has made some strides forward as a program. Finishing with a winning record for the second time in four seasons is a positive, Jones notes.
"I think we've definitely made some steps this year," Jones says. "It didn't work out with our SEC record the way we wanted it to, but I think it will definitely help establish the program here for future teams. There are a bunch of steps to take, but hopefully this year we've taken some small ones."
While the program as a whole hasn't accomplished its goals, the same can't be said for Jones. Coming into his senior year Jones was hitting .270 for his career with 44 hits in 163 at-bats. He had just one career home run, eight doubles and 19 RBI in three seasons.
As a senior Jones has crushed his total numbers for three years combined and in the process has become one of Auburn's most dependable hitters. Starting 50 of 53 games in 2009, Jones is hitting .284 with 10 home runs, 12 doubles and 49 RBI heading into the final series against Alabama. For the Decatur native, this week's games could be the end of his baseball career.
"I have had a great time this season," says Jones, who is also an excellent student. "I am thankful to God and the coaches for giving me the opportunity to come out and play. It has been awesome, a dream come true. I couldn't ask for anything more."
Jones and the Tigers take on 10th-ranked Alabama Thursday-Saturday at Plainsman Park. Game times are 6 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday with Saturday's game scheduled for 3 p.m.