Tigers Hope To Even Score Against Yellow Jackets

Auburn, Ala.--Coming off a series win over the Tennessee Vols last weekend at Plainsman Park, the 11th-ranked Auburn Tigers (18-5, 2-1) travel to Atlanta Tuesday night at 6 p.m. CST to face the second-ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (17-1) in the second of two meetings between the schools this season.

Last Tuesday night freshman Micah Owings shut down the Tigers from the mound and the Yellow Jackets hit three home runs as they defeated Auburn 4-2 in front of the sixth-largest home crowd in Auburn baseball history.

Auburn will get another chance at the second-round draft choice of the Colorado Rockies when he takes the mound once again for Georgia Tech against the Tigers. Facing him will be senior Levale Speigner for Auburn, who will be trying to get a win against the home state Yellow Jackets. Speigner enters the contest with a record of 4-0 and an ERA of 3.97 while Owings is 4-0 with an earned run average of 1.69 in 16 innings pitched. Owings has allowed just three runs and 10 hits this season while striking out 15 batters.

If Tech builds a lead it becomes almost an automatic win with closer Jeff Watchko taking over late. On the season he is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings pitched and has three saves. Combined with Brian Burks, who has three saves and a 1.56 earned run average, Watchko gives the Yellow Jackets perhaps the best bullpen the Tigers will see this season.

At the plate the Yellow Jackets continue to be an all or nothing team with fewer doubles than home runs this season. Hitting just .275 as a team, 47 points below Auburn's .322 team average, Georgia Tech has hit 29 home runs in 18 games and averaged just over nine runs per game. While Auburn has just two players with more than two home runs, Tech already has five players who have hit at least four long balls.

Leading the way at the plate is set-up man Clifton Remole with a .382 average and four doubles. Owings, who also sees time at designated hitter, is hitting .340 with five home runs and 10 runs batted in while fellow freshman Tyler Greene is hitting .323 with five home runs and 16 runs batted in. Georgia Tech will also run when it gets the chance as shown by a total of 37 stolen bases already this season.

Clete Thomas

Auburn came through with yet another comeback Sunday against Tennessee to earn a series win against the Volunteers. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Tigers scored two runs to take the win and keep the momentum they had created with a solid start to the 2003 season. The catalyst in Sunday's win was right fielder Clete Thomas, who had three hits, including the game-winner. For the season he is hitting .350 with eight doubles and 15 runs batted in. A speedy runner and a strong defensive player, Thomas has been a solid addition to the 2003 club.

Another true freshman continues to shine and did it again with a single to start the ninth inning rally Sunday. Catcher Josh Bell is second on the team in hitting with a .378 average and has three home runs and 15 runs batted in. Leading the team with a .391 average is sophomore Tug Hulett. Inserted into the third spot with Sean Gamble battling a pulled hamstring, he has come on strong and is hitting the ball better than ever.

Senior Bobby Huddleston has become the power source for the Tigers with six home runs and 22 runs batted in for the season after starting out very slowly with just one hit in his first 14 at-bats. Hitting .316 now, he has thrived with the emergence of Bell behind him in the lineup. He has also been helped by Karl Amonite's continued development at the plate. A power hitter coming out of junior college, he struggled early with Division I pitching, but had his best week as a Tiger last week that allowed him to raise his average to .284. He has two home runs and 18 runs batted in on the season.

After the trip to Atlanta, the Tigers return to action when they travel to Lexington to face the Kentucky Wildcats in a three-game series. Game times for the series are 2 p.m. CST on Friday, 1 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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