Finishing the regular season 8-2 with a 4.61 ERA, Dayton was 7-1 in SEC play and will have to be on his game if the Tigers hope to defeat a tough South Carolina squad. Coming off a 65-pitch performance in a win over Ole Miss last Saturday, Dayton will get the call to try to keep Auburn alive.
"We're not really looking too far ahead other than tomorrow morning," Pawlowski said. "I told the guys this is a situation where we're backed into a corner now. We've been in this position, not in a tournament, but certainly on a weekend. The guys are going to come out ready to play tomorrow. They've had a good attitude all year, a great mentality all year. They are tough, hard-nosed kids. I'm proud of what they've done…it will be a great challenge again tomorrow."
With the loss both Auburn and South Carolina could potentially be fighting not only to stay alive in the SEC Tournament, but also to boost what are already strong cases to be a host site in the NCAA Tournament beginning next weekend. To get a win Auburn must reverse a trend at the SEC Tournament. The Tigers are just 2-10 in their last 12 games in the tournament with both wins coming in 2003.
Auburn will have to do some work to get a win as the Tigers will face South Carolina ace Blake Cooper on Thursday. With a 10-1 record this year and an ERA of just 3.08, Cooper defeated Auburn earlier this season 11-5. In seven innings he allowed four earned runs on eight hits and struck out five. Deciding not to pitch Cooper in the first game because of a tired arm, South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said he'll be ready to go on Thursday.
"We sort of gave him some scenarios and he was leaning a little bit more about waiting until Thursday or Friday," Tanner said. "That being said, you have to listen to your players."
Much like Auburn, South Carolina's goal coming into the week was to win the tournament and second baseman Jackie Bradley Jr. said that's still the goal as they get ready to face the Tigers early on Thursday.
"Our mindset is obviously to win," Bradley said. "We don't want to go home early. We're still trying to win this tournament. Hopefully everything will fall into place. Auburn can really hit the ball. They are an offensive team for sure. We just have to jump on their pitching."