Auburn Ready for Possible Clemson Rematch

"We knew coming in that we were going to have a tough schedule," said Auburn pitcher Levale Speigner. "Coach Renfroe said all along that it was going to prepare us for late in the season. We've had tough teams on our schedule, we've seen Clemson and had some tough games against them. Hopefully, we'll see them again."

Waiting patiently in the team room underneath the stands at Plainsman Park, the Auburn baseball Tigers looked on as first Florida State then LSU and then Georgia Tech were called as national seeds.

Everyone in the room expected the Seminoles to be the top seed, but when LSU and Georgia Tech were announced, spirits began to lift among the players and coaches that the Tigers would be one of the top eight seeds in the tournament.

The team didn't have to wait long as Auburn appeared on the screen of the television bringing shouts of joy from the team and coaching staff. Paired with Princeton, which is the number four seed in the region, and number two Clemson (38-20) along with number three Ohio State (41-19), Auburn had accomplished its goal of being a top seed. That gives the Tigers a chance to reach Omaha and the College World Series without ever leaving home.

Senior Bobby Huddleston says that he's thrilled to be able to play at home for the right to make it to Omaha. "You don't want to be surprised, but you have to be with the number four seed," Huddleston says. "It makes you think of how good of a season we really had. You really don't pay attention to it until you see something like this at the end of the year. It tells you either that we have that nice of a stadium or they think something good about us. It was pretty cool to see us up that high and pretty remarkable.

"It's going to be nice," Huddleston adds about playing at home. "It's going to be huge. Just playing at home, it has a huge influence. I don't know what it is, but last year a lot of the teams that made it to the World Series I think they all hosted. Hopefully, if we can play some great baseball and put it all together we can keep playing for another week."

Unlike some teams around the country that chose to play an easy schedule in the hopes that a padded record would get them the attention they needed to become a host site, Auburn did it the hard way in 2003 by playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Finishing with a record of 40-19, the Tigers played 34 games against teams that received bids to the NCAA Tournament, finishing with a record of 19-15 in those contests. In all, Auburn faced 12 teams that will be playing in the postseason, roughly one-fifth of the field for the tournament.

"We knew coming in that we were going to have a tough schedule," senior pitcher Levale Speigner says.

"Coach Renfroe said all along that it was going to prepare us for late in the season. Everything that we have done to this point has really prepared us for what we're going to see now. We've had tough teams on our schedule, we've seen Clemson and had some tough games against them. Hopefully, we'll get to see them again."

Renfroe's Tigers now turn their attention to Princeton and preparing for the opening game of the regional. While many will look ahead to a possible rematch with Clemson in the second round, this team has to look no further than last season's opening game in the Tuscaloosa regional to be reminded what can happen in college baseball.

Renfroe says he's also reminded this year's team several times of that 1995 team that was 47-11 heading into the NCAAs. Riding high after rolling through the SEC with a record of 19-8, the Tigers almost lost the first game of the regional to Penn of the Ivy League, holding on for a 2-1 victory. Those thoughts will be pounded into the heads of the players this week and should keep this team on an even keel when play opens on Friday against the 2003 Ivy League champ Princeton Tigers.

"I think our kids are excited," Renfroe says. "We're here this week. If we go out and play really well we're going to have a real good shot of winning the thing. We're going to have to beat a couple of good teams to do it. You've got three teams in here that think they can win it. We saw that with Florida Atlantic last year. I do think regionals are more evenly matched than they have been."

Auburn has faced both Clemson and Ohio State in postseason play. In 1994 Auburn defeated Clemson at Clemson's home field 11-5 on the way to a College World Series berth, but two other times the purple Tigers have eliminated Auburn from regional play. Overall, Auburn is 3-3 versus Clemson in NCAA postseason competition. In 1995 the Tigers beat Ohio State 8-6 in Oklahoma City, but lost to Oklahoma in the final game. That 1995 season was the first and only number one seed for a Tiger team until this season's selection.

Clemson (38-20) takes on number three seed Ohio State in the first game of Friday's play at 2:30 p.m. Clemson enters the NCAAs with only six wins in its last 13 games. Among those losses are two to Duke, North Carolina and Furman with the other loss coming to Elon. Ohio State won its second straight Big 10 Tournament Championship with a victory over Minnesota in the title game. This is the Buckeyes' 16th NCAA Tournament appearance. Top Stories