Talented Teams Heading to Auburn

For the first time since 1999 and just the third time overall, Auburn will be the site of a NCAA Baseball Regional when play begins at Plainsman Park Friday afternoon with No. 2 seed Clemson taking on No. 3 seed Ohio State at 2:30 CDT.

Top seed and overall No. 4 national seed Auburn will face regional No. 4 seed Princeton in the day's second game at 6:30 p.m.

Playing one of the top schedules in the country and winning a SEC-leading 40 games this season, Auburn comes into the regional a very banged up team. Shortstop Chuck Jeroloman continues to be bothered by a sprained knee and sprained ankle, but should be ready for Friday's game following almost a full week off to rehab and improve. Catcher Bobby Huddleston, first baseman Karl Amonite and third baseman Scott Schade, who broke a bone in his face on Friday, are all improving and should be ready for the Ivy League Tigers.

Auburn (40-19) will send senior Levale Speigner to the mound on Friday looking to advance and remain in the winner's bracket of the regional. With a record of 9-0 on the year and an ERA of 2.72, Speigner has been the Tigers' most consistent pitcher this season and is also Auburn's most experienced with three years of NCAA performances under his belt.

Speigner will face a Princeton (27-21) team that has been hot lately, winning 20 of its past 25 games, including the Ivy League Championship against Harvard. The strength of the Princeton team is in the pitching staff where it features a solid ERA of 4.94. Leading the way is closer Thomas Pauly. With a record of 6-1 on the year with a miniscule 1.25 ERA and six saves, he gives his team a chance to win every time he's on the mound. Pauly has also started two games this season and has 17 total appearances. He's either won or saved 12 of Princeton's 27 total victories.

The possible starter in Friday's game is Ryan Quillian, who is 6-4 with a 3.06 ERA this season. Another option for Princeton is David Boehle. Boehle is 4-2 with a 3.74 earned run average in nine starts this season.

At the plate the Tigers are led by Jon Miller, who is hitting .346 with two home runs, 13 doubles and a team-leading 32 runs batted in. Next is B.J. Szymanski with a .329 average, eight doubles, six triples and 30 RBI. The power is supplied by Tim Lahey, who has 11 of Princeton's 28 home runs this season, but a batting average of just .236. As a team the Tigers are hitting .266 with an on-base percentage of .338.

Princeton has a record of just 1-9 against tournament teams, with the only victory coming against North Carolina on March 18. The Tigers were swept in a four-game series by Richmond and lost a two-game set against North Carolina State as well. Losses against Rutgers and a pair to the Tar Heels were the only contests for Princeton against tournament teams this season.

In the first game of the day, Clemson (38-20) will face Big 10 Tournament Champion Ohio State (41-19) in one of the top games of the day around the country. A perennial powerhouse in college baseball, the Clemson Tigers come into the regional limping after winning just six of their last 13 games. That won't be enough for teams to overlook the talented Clemson squad, which swept No. 3 overall national seed Georgia Tech earlier this year and won series over North Carolina and Virginia.

A powerful team as is almost always the case, Clemson has a team batting average of .311 with 53 home runs and 117 doubles. Leading the way is Brad McCann with a .351 average, nine home runs and 66 RBI. A first-team All-American last season at first base, Michael Johnson had another solid year with a .346 average and a team leading 12 home runs. Usually a running team, Clemson has just 33 stolen bases in 64 attempts this season.

On the mound the Tigers feature three quality starters in Jason Berken, Tyler Lumsden and Steven Jackson. A combined 19-7 this season, the trio has 38 starts between them with almost 220 total innings. Lumsden is the leader of the bunch with an 8-2 record and an ERA of 3.62. He is expected to get the first start against Ohio State with Jackson going in the second game. Jackson is 7-3 with a 4.27 earned run average.

Clemson will face an Ohio State team that has a team batting average of .289 with 46 home runs and 79 doubles. Leading the way is Christian Snavely. Hitting .335 with 13 home runs, 10 doubles and 42 runs batted in, he dominates the stats for the Buckeyes and will be a player to watch this weekend. Just behind him is Derek Kinnear with a .327 average, five home runs and 34 runs batted in. The Buckeyes have a great deal of team speed, as evidenced by a team total of 18 triples this year.

Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, the injury bug hit at just the wrong time with the Big 10 Pitcher of the Year Scott Lewis. Sustaining a torn UCL in his throwing arm on May 16, Lewis was expected to meet with Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham. He's scheduled to go through surgery and will miss the remainder of the season.

That is a tough break for a team that counted on his outing each and every week. With a record of 9-1 that included 15-straight wins carried over from his freshman season, Lewis had an ERA of just 1.61 and opponents were hitting just .166 against him this season. His loss leaves the number one starting job to Josh Newman (6-5, 3.80 ERA) while Nate Smith (2-6, 5.12) is the number two starter. Out of the bullpen Matt Davis has been outstanding this season with a 2-1 record and 11 saves in 27 appearances.

The schedule for the remainder of the weekend has the losers of games one and two facing each other at 11:30 CDT Saturday morning in game three. The winners of the first two games will meet following that game at 3 p.m. on Saturday in game four of the regional. Game five features the winner of game three versus the loser of game four at 6:30 Saturday night. Sunday's championship game is set for 1:30 p.m., and if another game is needed it will follow at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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