Struggling on offense, Ole Miss has scored just 14 runs in its last five games. Included in that is a 3-0 win over South Carolina on Wednesday. Now Auburn must keep the Rebels in check once again after sweeping in Oxford last weekend to wrap up the SEC Western Division title. Ole Miss slugger Matt Smith said it's a chance for a little redemption for the Rebels this time around.
"I'm definitely excited that we have the chance to play them again," Smith said. "We didn't really play too good against them at our place and they swept us. We look at this as an opportunity to get back on track as a team."
Coming off an important 3-1 win over South Carolina on Thursday in 12 innings, Auburn's first win in the SEC Tournament since 2003, the Tigers will now have a chance to make it to the weekend by earning a second win. Coach John Pawlowski said that getting that first win was just a big momentum builder for his team.
"I think it's really important," Pawlowski said. "I think it's great for our players' mindset too to know that we can win in postseason and win in the tournament. After last night (Wednesday's loss) the guys were frustrated and rightfully so. They came back and it was an absolute battle today. I think it gives our team some confidence knowing we can play at a high level in the postseason."
Chances are that the game won't be a high scoring one based on the tournament so far in 2010. This season in 178 conference games there were only four that finished with four runs or fewer in combined runs. Already in seven games there have been three in this year's SEC Tournament with fewer, including Auburn's 3-1 win on Thursday morning.
To take it a step more, this season in SEC games only the average runs per game combined was 13.13. In seven SEC Tournament games the average is just 7.2 runs.
While much of Auburn's success is due to its offense this year, the pitching staff has earned its share of respect in recent weeks as well.
"So much credit has gone to the hitters and rightfully so because they've done a great job and time and time again they've bailed us out of a lot of tough situations," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "It's just nice to see because the pitchers have been working so hard and to see the reward. You look at a game like today, if we didn't have that type of pitching performance it would have been a different game."
The first pitch for Friday's game is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Regions Park with either junior Cole Nelson or freshman Slade Smith pitching for the Tigers. This season Nelson is 6-3 with a 4.94 ERA while Smith is 3-0 with an ERA of 4.68. Ole Miss will counter with David Go forth (1-5, 8.27). The game can be seen on SportSouth.
"This is not bulletin board stuff, but we've got to get back on the field," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. "We weren't real bad today, but it's disappointing. You would have thought with (Aaron) Barrett's effort if we were a little better in the field and offensively then we have a shot. Now rather than having a day off we get to come out and play Auburn, a team we didn't play very well against and really handled us at home. It's a chance to come back and redeem yourself and play a little bit better."