Yes Virginia, It's Baseball Time At Plainsman Park

The 20th-ranked Auburn Tigers (3-1) take on the Virginia Cavaliers this weekend at Hitchcock Field at Plainsman Park.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn baseball Tigers continue to challenge the state of Virginia when they play the University of Virginia this weekend for a three-game series at Plainsman Park.

The series marks the return of former Auburn player and assistant coach Dennis Womack to the Plains. A two-year letterman for the Tigers in 1968-69, he served as an assistant to Coach Paul Nix from 1973-78 and has been at Virginia for 23 years, compiling a record of 565-580-7.

The Cavaliers open their season this weekend after finishing last year 25-32. UVA won just eight of 24 ACC games last season. Robert Word leads the way at the plate for Virginia after hitting .322 with 11 home runs and 49 runs batted in last season. Matt Street falls in just behind Word at .301 with six home runs and 29 RBI.

Chris Sweet is projected as one of the top players in the ACC and hit .298 with four home runs and 25 runs batted in while Mark Reynolds set a Virginia record for home runs by a first-year player with 15 last season and added a .283 batting average with 43 runs driven in.

Junior Jeff Kamrath gets the nod for the Cavaliers on the mound Friday afternoon against Auburn's Eric Brandon. With a record of 7-4 last season and an ERA of 3.28, Kamrath is easily the top starter for Virginia and could give the Tigers a stern test in the opener. Brandon got his junior season off to a good start last weekend when he threw five and two/thirds innings, allowing just five hits and one earned run against Virginia Commonwealth.

Eric Brandon is looking for more consistency this season.

The only pitcher set for the rest of the weekend on either side is freshman left-hander Mike Ballard for Virginia, who is scheduled to throw on Saturday. Auburn is listed as "to be announced" for the rest of the weekend, but one starter will definitely throw while the third starter remains a mystery. Junior Colby Paxton got a win Sunday afternoon when he gave us just three hits and one run in five and one/third innings. The final start for Auburn could go to either Levale Speigner or Arnold Hughey.

Karl Ammonite is off to a good start in his first season as a Tiger.

Auburn struggled last weekend to find a rhythm at the plate, but that changed Tuesday as the Tigers pounded the Samford Bulldogs 10-1 thanks to hits from up and down the lineup. The leader at the plate for Auburn is junior college transfer Karl Ammonite. Hitting .455 with one home run and one run batted in, the left-hander has adjusted nicely to the Division I game and gives Auburn more power in the lineup.

Sophomore Sean Gamble had a big first week of action with a game-winning home run on Friday leading him to a 7-for-16 finish in four games with a team-high five runs batted in. Versatile Scott Schade hit .400 for the week with six hits in 15 at-bats and had one RBI.

The Tigers are hitting .329 as a team and are holding opponents to just a .223 clip with 29 hits in 130 at-bats while striking out 36 times in 36 innings of play. On the mound Auburn has an ERA of just 2.25 while opponents are giving up an average of nearly six earned runs per game to the Tigers. A big part of Auburn's success has been the lack of walks issued by its pitching staff. In four games the Tigers have walked just 10 batters, keeping down the chances for big innings.

Game times for the weekend are set for 3 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Auburn leads the all-time series with Virginia 5-2 and has won four of six in Auburn. The last meeting between the two teams was an 11-2 Auburn win in Orlando on Jan. 31, 1999.

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