Tigers In It To Win It At SEC Tournament

Auburn coach John Pawlowski talks about the Tigers facing Alabama in the SEC Tournament opener Wednesday morning at Regions Park.

Hoover, Ala.--It has been seven long years since Auburn played in the SEC Baseball Tournament, but on Wednesday morning the Tigers will end that drought by playing none other than Alabama in the opening game of the 2010 edition at Regions Park.

With each team winning two games this season in the series, coach John Pawlowski says having the opportunity to face the Crimson Tide to open the tournament only adds to the excitement for his team.

"Anytime you get Auburn and Alabama together in any kind of sporting venue it's intriguing, it's enticing, it's exciting for the players and fans," Pawlowski says.

"I think that element is one that's always going to be there. This will be the fifth time we've played them. They are an outstanding club. They've played very well down the homestretch.

"It's certainly a club that is very dangerous in a lot of different ways," the Auburn coach adds. "We know we'll have our hands full with them. It will be an exciting atmosphere. Everybody is certainly looking forward to the challenge."

While Alabama makes it even more exciting to open the tournament, Pawlowski notes that he doesn't think it changes the emphasis for his team as it takes the field in Hoover. The emphasis is to win no matter the opponent.

"They've got a great team and have been playing very well," Pawlowski says. "We're not going to prepare any differently than we've been doing. Our approach is going to be the same. It's going to be an exciting atmosphere."

Much of the talk this week will center around not only the SEC Tournament but also Auburn's chances to be a host site for a regional in the NCAA tournament next week. Pawlowski says he hasn't been overly concerned about what it will take for the Tigers to accomplish that goal, all he knows is to try to keep winning.

"I feel and I will tell our team that our body of work is never finished," Pawlowski says. "We have more work to do. Not only for postseason play, but for regionals and hosting. Our goal is to go in there and win the tournament. It's something we've talked about. Now that we're in it our goal is to find a way to win it."

The Tigers will try to keep things status quo for the opener as sophomore Cory Luckie (6-3, 6.17 ERA) will get the start on Wednesday against Alabama while junior Grant Dayton (8-2, 4.61) is expected to get the call on Thursday in game two against either South Carolina or Ole Miss. Pawlowski says the decision to keep Luckie in the opener was an easy one to make for him and his staff.

Lefty Cory Luckie from Prattville will pitch for the Tigers on Wednesday.

"We're going to look at the second game after we complete the first one, but Cory Luckie with throw the first game," Pawlowski says. "You look at our pitching staff and we've juggled some things around, but it would be tough to ask a guy like Grant Dayton who pitched on Saturday to turn right back around and throw on Wednesday. Cory has done a good job for us. We'll run him out there on Wednesday against a very good Alabama team. We'll figure out Thursday after that."

One of the biggest reasons for Auburn's success has been the improvement on the mound in 2010. Already with a strong offense, just minimal success would have been enough to get the Tigers over the hump, but it has been more than that. In 56 games last season Auburn had a team ERA of 6.12 and allowed 387 runs for the year. Through the regular season of 56 games this season Auburn's ERA is down to 4.86 while the run total is 325.

It's that little bit of improvement in both areas that has made a huge difference for this Auburn team. Because of the offense that is putting up excellent numbers, it hasn't taken much for an increase in pitching performance to translate into victories. In 39 games Auburn has held the opposition to seven or fewer runs and the Tigers have been victorious in 35 of those games.

Auburn and Alabama will take the field at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday at Regions Park in Hoover. The game can be seen live on SportSouth. The winner will face the winner of South Carolina and Ole Miss on Thursday. With the early start Pawlowski notes that his team will just have to deal with it and come to the park ready to play.

"They've got to understand that at 9:30 in the morning they've got to be ready to compete," Pawlowski says. "It's something that neither club has done this year. It will be a great challenge."

Auburn won the first matchup with Alabama this season in Montgomery and the Tide won two of three games played in Tuscaloosa.

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