Power Ball: Tigers Hope Bats Keep Producing

The Tigers will play the Tennessee Volunteers this weekend in a three-game series at Plainsman Park.

Auburn, Ala.--John Pawlowski is hoping his team's bats stay as warm as the weather as the Tigers play their final SEC home series of the baseball season vs. the Tennessee Volunteers.

The action starts on Friday at 6:30 p.m. CDT at Plainsman Park. The Tigers bring a healthy .352 batting average into the contest and an equally impressive .586 slugging percentage.

Every starter for the Tigers is hitting better than .300 and 15 players have batting averages better than .300.

Pawlowski says he has been pleased with how the Tigers have responded to their new hitting coach, Link Jarrett, who has had success with the Tigers playing small ball, too, bunting for hits and sacrifices in addition to hitting with power.

"I think one of the biggest things is he brings some positive energy and a sense of giving guys the calmness they need to succeed," Pawlowski says. "In other words, he has been where they have been playing at Florida State, playing at a high level, and playing at the professional level. I think he can really relate to our guys."

The Tigers, who are 33-16 overall and 15-9 in the SEC, have doubled up opponents in home runs by a 96-48 margin. The Tigers have executed 44 successful sacrifice bunts, 18 more than opponents.

"He has done a tremendous job," Pawlowski says of Jarrett's hitting instruction. "The players have really adjusted and adapted to what he is trying to accomplish with them. They have respect and confidence in what he has done. He has constantly got the guys in the lab where he breaks down the videos with them."

The Tigers have been much less impressive on the mound. While Auburn leads all SEC teams in hitting by a wide margin, the Tigers are sixth in earned run average allowing 5.11 runs per game.

With just two SEC regular season series left to play, the Tigers still haven't settled on a complete SEC starting rotation with their Saturday pitcher listed as "To Be Announced" on game day.

"When we started this journey at the beginning of the season there was a lot of uncertainty and I said our pitching staff was going to be a work in progress and it still is," Pawlowski notes." It remains to be and it may be for the whole year, but guys have adjusted and adapted into different roles.

"I think Grant Dayton (Sunday's starter) and Corey Luckie (Friday starter) have done great jobs--the bookends so to speak on the front end and the back end of the weekend," the Auburn coach says. "You have some guys out there that have some knowledge and understanding of how to pitch. Certainly Corey and Grant have done a good job for us."

The Tigers will be counting on left Corey Luckie to get the series off to a winning start on Friday night.

After sweeping Mississippi State last weekend, Pawlowski said his Tigers were disappointing on Tuesday night as they lost at South Alabama. In that game the Tigers blew leads in the bottom of the ninth inning and the bottom of the 11th.

"You take some of what happened Tuesday and you learn from it and you try not to spend a lot of time on it and you move forward," Pawlowski says. "I know the guys were ready to play. We just didn't execute in a lot of phases.

"We stubbed our toe and now we have to figure out how to move forward because Tennessee, I am telling you, that is a talented team, a very talented team. It is a big weekend for us."

Tennessee, which is 28-21 overall, is 11-13 in the league and currently in line for the eighth and final spot in the SEC Tournament. The Vols, who started league play 0-7, come into Auburn playing their best baseball of the season winning nine of their last 10 games.

"They have got speed and power in the middle of the lineup and I think that is something we are really going to have to contend with from a pitching staff," Pawlowski says. "The first two guys can get on base and then three, four, five they have power in the lineup."

Junior Hunter Morris leads the Tigers at the plate with a .394 batting average. His 17 home runs ties him for the SEC lead. Morris leads the Tigers in doubles with 15, runs with 53, hits with 80, RBI with 63 and bases on balls with 22.

Following Friday evening's contest, the teams will play at 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

SEC Standings Week 8

1. Florida 17-7
T1. South Carolina 17-7
3. Arkansas 16-8
4. Auburn 15-9
T4. Ole Miss 15-9
6. Vanderbilt 12-10
7. LSU 12-12
8. Tennessee 11-13
9. Alabama 10-14
10. Kentucky 9-15
11. Mississippi State 5-19
12. Georgia 3-19

SEC Schedule

Tennessee at Auburn
LSU at Kentucky
Vanderbilt at Miss. State
Ole Miss at Alabama
South Carolina at Arkansas
Georgia at Florida

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