Top Ten Battle Set For Plainsman Park

Auburn faces Georgia Tech in a final tune-up before conference play opens this weekend.

Auburn, Ala.--Winners of nine straight games after sweeping the 22nd-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on the road over the weekend, the 10th-ranked Auburn Tigers (16-3) continue a tough stretch of the 2003 schedule when they play the top-ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (14-0) at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Plainsman Park.

Auburn will start sophomore Arnold Hughey (3-0, 3.20 ERA) while the Yellow Jackets will counter with freshman Micah Owings.

One of the top pitchers in the country coming out of Gainesville, Ga., last year, Owings was a second round draft choice of the Colorado Rockies but decided to enroll at Georgia Tech instead. That was a great addition to what was already arguably the top pitching staff in college baseball. At 6-5, 220 with a fastball in the low to middle 90s, Owings has a record of 3-0 this season and an ERA of just 1.80. He has allowed just five hits in 10 innings this season and will present Auburn with a tough challenge at the plate.

Hughey and Auburn's pitchers will face what may be the most powerful offensive team in the country. In 14 games this season the Yellow Jackets have already connected for 25 home runs and 23 doubles. Leading the way at the plate is Clifton Remole, who is hitting .439 without a home run. True freshman Tyler Greene, a second round pick of the Atlanta Braves, has already shown his talents with a .340 average and four home runs this season.

Perhaps the most dangerous hitter on the Tech roster and maybe in the South is second baseman Eric Patterson. The brother of Chicago Cubs outfielder Corey Patterson, he is hitting .305 with two home runs and four doubles this season and has already stolen 15 bases in 16 attempts. As a team the Yellow Jackets are 32-38 in stolen bases and will be a tough challenge for a Tiger team coming off an emotional sweep of North Carolina on the road and the opening weekend of SEC play beginning Friday.

"This will be a great test," Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said. "They are probably the most talented team in the country by all measures--talent, draft picks and ability to play the game. Then we have to focus on a great Tennessee team coming in and then it all starts over again. Everything we've done now starts over on Friday and a new world starts. It should be exciting. I'm anxious to see how we come together. The thing I like is that we play hard. We show up and get after it every day."

Josh Bell

Hitting .340 as a team after torching North Carolina for 28 runs over the weekend, the Tigers are led by true freshman Josh Bell at the plate. The catcher/designated hitter hit .562 (9-for-16) last week, including a 6-for-12 effort against the Tar Heels, to improve his average to .419 on the season. He had one of the big hits of the weekend when he broke a 3-3 tie in Sunday's finale with a three-run home run in the fifth inning.

Sophomore Tug Hulett continues to swing a hot bat for the Tigers as a 9-18 week pushed his average to .380 on the season. His 27 hits are good enough for third on the team as are his six doubles on the season. Javon Moran is third on the team with a .367 average and has an eight game hitting streak heading into Tuesday's matchup with Georgia Tech. Moran leads the Tigers with nine stolen bases in 11 attempts and is third on the team with 15 runs batted in.

Senior Bobby Huddleston leads the team in both home runs (six) and RBI (19) and is batting .297. He had the biggest play of the weekend when he bombed a three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday night to give the Tigers an 8-7 lead over North Carolina. The Tigers eventually won the game on the way to the sweep.

Cory Dueitt

On the mound junior reliever Cory Dueitt continues to baffle opposing hitters with 19 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings on the season. With a record of 5-0 and a miniscule 1.09 ERA, he has developed into one of the best middle relievers anywhere. Closer Steven Register is on pace to break Auburn's single season saves record as he recorded his eighth of the year over the weekend. The record is 19 set by Finley Woodward in 1995. Register is 0-1 on the year with an ERA of 2.60. Both Dueitt and Register could see action Tuesday as could freshman Chris Dennis, who has been outstanding of lately out of the Tiger bullpen. He is currently 0-0 in seven appearances but has an ERA of just 3.07.

Auburn returns to action Friday at 6 p.m. CST when the Tigers play the Tennessee Volunteers in the first of three games at Plainsman Park. Saturday's action is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. while Sunday's game will get started at 1:30 p.m.

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