Jenkins And Tigers Putting It All Together

Catcher Ryan Jenkins talks about his recent good play, Auburn's upcoming series against Mississippi State, and the thoughts on the postseason.

Auburn, Ala.--The 2010 baseball season has been a resurrection of sorts for the Auburn Tigers as they are currently on track to make the SEC Tournament in Hoover for the first time since the 2003 season. It has also served as a proper sendoff for fifth-year senior catcher Ryan Jenkins.

Missing the entire 2009 season after breaking his hand in the preseason, Jenkins was expected to share time with Tony Caldwell this year to give both a chance to stay fresh throughout the season. Instead he was forced into the everyday lineup right away because of injuries to Trent Mummey and Justin Fradejas in the outfield that forced Caldwell to be the guy in right field.

Struggling somewhat to find his rhythm at the plate and find the form he had before his injury last year, Jenkins hit just .263 before Mummey's return put Caldwell back behind the plate once again. Having some time to take a deep breathe and get back to playing baseball, Jenkins has responded with a vengeance in the second half of Auburn's season. Going 15-31 in his last 10 games, he has raised his average 64 points to .327 and has given the Tigers some pop at the bottom of the order. He says for him it was just about relaxing and playing baseball.

"I was pressing too much and trying to do too much," Jenkins says. "I think it helped me to sit down and get a little time. It's hard to say, but I think sometimes you have to realize you can't do more than what you can do. You just have to keep working and it will work out. Lately I have felt stronger and my confidence level is getting up. I think that's the biggest thing is being confident and believing you can do it and I have felt real good at the plate."

Much like Jenkins, the Tigers have come to life at just the right time. Winners of three of its last four SEC series, Auburn has won 13 of 18 overall to move into serious contention not only to make the tournament but in the race for the SEC West. That's something Jenkins and the Tigers haven't been used to since he's been on the Plains.

"It's real exciting to be in this situation," Jenkins says. "We're in reach of our biggest goal, which is the SEC Tournament. It's really exciting to be in a position to where if we play good ball the rest of the way out we may have a chance to win the West. We haven't been in a situation like that since I've been here. It's not so much about getting to the tournament anymore. The thoughts are changing. We can do a lot more than that. That's exciting to know we can go a lot farther this season than just making it to the tournament."

Auburn's resurgence may just come down to a pair of games this season and how different results steeled the resolve of a veteran team. The first was a loss at Troy on March 31 when the Tigers struggled to get any energy in the mid-week game. Following that game there was a challenge thrown down by the coaching staff to play every game as if it were the last game of the year.

The second came two weeks later. Playing LSU on a Sunday after having split the first two games of the series, Auburn squeezed home the winning run in a 6-5 win against the Top 10 Tigers. Since that time Auburn has been a different team and Jenkins says it's all because they've learned how to win and the reasons why it happens.

"That's a lesson everybody is learning and starting to believe in," Jenkins says. "The more success they have, the more guys are starting to believe in themselves. You go out and beat teams that have been to the College World Series and have guys that are going to be first-rounders throwing on the weekend, guys are starting to be more confident in themselves. Baseball is so much of a mental game especially when guys start believing the can do things. Even if it's far-fetched, a lot of times if they believe it then it will happen. Everyone is starting to believe we've got a very good ball team."

To continue the good feelings the Tigers have to take care of business this weekend against a Mississippi State team struggling to the finish of the 2010 season. Swept the last two weekends by Alabama and Ole Miss, the Bulldogs and second-year coach John Cohen are in need of something good to happen after losing back-to-back midweek games against Jackson State and Southern Miss this week.

Jenkins and Auburn knows all too well about struggling down the stretch and trying to salvage a season with late wins over teams looking towards the postseason. Because of that he says it's important to continue to do what this team has done to put itself in this position, play every game like it's the last one.

"It's not easy to not get ahead of yourself," Jenkins says. "I know it's kind of cliché, but we need to take it one game at a time. It's hard not to think ahead and think, well if we can sweep here and sweep here we might win the West. The biggest thing for us is to try to win each inning. If we can do that then we'll be in good shape.

"Anytime you play guys that are fighting to get to the tournament then it's going to be a tough weekend," Jenkins adds. "With Mississippi State we know they are coached well. We know a lot of guys over there. It's going to be a challenge. Anytime you play a team in the SEC it's a challenge. We don't have easy weekends. I think everybody is real excited to play."

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