Veteran Tigers Looking For Improved 2010

Auburn baseball opens the season in less than a month with practice beginning this week. The Tigers are looking to get back to the postseason behind a powerful offense and deeper pitching staff.

Auburn, Ala.--Following a season of ups and downs featuring an explosive but erratic offense and a depleted pitching staff, the Auburn baseball Tigers get back to work on Monday looking for continued improvement under second-year coach John Pawlowski.

Finishing 31-25 last season and 11-19 in SEC play, the goal for the Tigers is consistency and improvement as they shoot for Hoover and the SEC Tournament.

In his first season Pawlowski's Auburn team had a huge power surge with a school-record 103 home runs, 102 doubles, and a slugging percentage of .516. The home run total easily surpassed the 87 hit in 1998, but it didn't equate to more victories because of the strikeouts that came with the increased power.

The Tigers also set a school record for K's with 484 in just 1,906 official at-bats. That means 25.4 percent of the time Auburn walked back to the dugout last season.

That's one of the reasons why Link Jarrett was brought on board this season. Known as a productive hitter at Florida State, Jarrett has coached since finishing his playing days with the Colorado Rockies organization in 1998. Coming off of four good years at East Carolina, Jarrett's new approach has already started to show dividends, according to players such as junior first baseman Hunter Morris.

"The thing I noticed the most was the changes made over the fall," Morris says. "It was seeing guys going to the plate with a plan seeing what it was they needed to do. Whether that's to move a runner over, lay down a bunt, drive in a run, whatever.

"If you're in a situation with runners on second and third with nobody out and looking to hit a fly ball, go ahead and try to yank one of out there, Morris adds. "Worst case scenario it's still a sacrifice fly. It's about seeing guys mature at the plate and understand what it is they need to do to help this team win. It's really, really exciting."

Morris is one of the players who will be counted on to be a major player for the Tigers in 2010. Despite battling injuries the Huntsville native still managed to hit .282 with 12 home runs and 33 RBI last season. Throw in experienced offensive weapons such as Trent Mummey, Brian Fletcher, Justin Hargett, Kevin Patterson, Tony Caldwell, Ryan Jenkins and Casey McElroy and you have the makings of a dynamic offensive attack for the Tigers if they can cut down on the strikeouts.

They'll be helped by a much deeper pitching staff including junior college transfers Stephen Kohlscheen (6-7 RHP) and Cole Nelson (6-7 LHP) as well as the return of sophomore lefty Corey Luckie following Tommy John surgery that kept him out the entire 2009 season. With the pieces in place, experience, and the confidence to get the job done, Mummey says this team feels like they can take the next step in their road to putting Auburn back on the baseball map.

"Looking around the locker room and when we take the field, we have a little bit more of a swagger when we go out because we know we're pretty good," Mummey says. "We've got a good junior class and a good sophomore class and a good group of freshmen. We've shown the freshmen where we've made mistakes. They're going to be made.

Trent Mummey

"Even as a junior I learn stuff everyday, especially the mental aspect of the game...your junior year of college is kind of like your senior year of high school," he adds. "You feel like you've been through everything and seen it all. It's one of those things where you can become a better player because of what you've gone through."

Auburn opens the 2010 season at home against Southeast Missouri on Feb. 19-21 at Plainsman Park. The following weekend the Tigers will be the host of a three-day tournament featuring games against Boston College on Friday, Missouri on Saturday and Florida Atlantic on Sunday.

Fans in the Montgomery area will have a chance to see the Tigers face Alabama at Riverwalk Stadium on March 9 just before Auburn heads to Arizona State to face the Sun Devils in a three-game series on March 12-14. SEC play opens the following weekend at Georgia.

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