Auburn played one of its finest all-around games of the season the first time these two teams met back on Feb. 11 at Plainsman Park. Winning 10-1, the Tigers pounded out 19 hits against Bulldog pitching while holding Samford to just one run in the easy victory. This time may be different as the Tigers will take their show on the road for the first time this season after opening the 2003 schedule with 15 consecutive home games. Auburn is 12-3 all-time against the Bulldogs in Birmingham and this game will be played on the Samford campus at Griffin Field.
With a series at North Carolina coming up this weekend, the Tigers will approach the Samford game a little cautiously on the mound with several pitchers likely to see just a few innings of work against the Bulldogs. With starters Arnold Hughey, Eric Brandon and Colby Paxton all off limits to get ready for the trip, Coach Steve Renfroe is expected to use a variety of pitchers to try to get a victory over Samford Tuesday. Some of the guys expected to throw are freshmen Chris Dennis and Daniel Forrer as well as upperclassmen Andrew Skinner and Jim Miksis. Relievers Levale Speigner, Cory Dueitt and Steven Register could also see some action if needed.
"I'm anxious to see how our guys respond on the road," Renfroe said. "It's always fun to play in a different ballpark against good teams. We'll know more about where we stand after this week."
Auburn's pitching has been solid lately, allowing just four runs in the four wins last week. The most dominant of the Tigers has been Dueitt. A Hoover native and former high school quarterback, the junior has not allowed a run in his last 12 2/3 innings. In his last four outings he has allowed no runs while scattering three hits in 10 innings and striking out nine. For the season Dueitt is 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 17 2/3 innings and hasn't walked an opposing batter.
While Huddleston got the accolades for his performance last week, center fielder Javon Moran did his share in helping lead the Tigers to a perfect 4-0 record. A cool 8-14 on the week with four doubles and five runs scored, Moran teamed with Huddleston to form a solid middle of the order for Auburn, something that had been missing early in the season.
For most of the year the ‘Peninsula Pilot Connection' has carried the bulk of the offensive load for the Tigers. Second baseman Tug Hulett, shortstop Chuck Jeroloman and third baseman Scott Schade played all summer together in a wooden bat league and have carried over their friendship and familiarity with each into the 2003 season. Hitting 7-8-9 in the order, they have combined to collect 44 hits in 15 games while scoring 35 runs and driving in 28. If they can continue to put pressure on the opposing teams and get on base for the top of the order, Auburn will be a dangerous offensive team for the remainder of the season.
The Tigers will return home briefly following the Samford trip before heading to Chapel Hill to face the North Carolina Tar Heels in a three-game series. North Carolina is 4-0 on the season and is currently ranked 25th by Sports Weekly/ESPN.