The second half of the SEC baseball season begins this weekend. And despite winning their last two games, the Auburn Tigers have taken a nose dive the last two weeks.
On April 6th the team was in first place in the SEC West and ranked No.23 in the nation. Now 14 days later, Auburn finds itself tied for third in the West and in sixth place overall.
How can a team be among the league leaders in ERA , second in team hitting, second in on-base-percentage, and yet be in sixth place overall in the SEC standings?
Part of Auburn's problem has been a dismal road record. Although the Tigers are 16-7 (.696) at home, they are 5-9 (.357 ) on the road. Nevertheless, the main issue has been a high number of LOB's.
The Tigers have left 121 runners on base, many of those stranded while in scoring position. That's a statistic that just can't continue for Auburn to have any real chance at the post season.
The good news though, is the Tigers still control their own destiny. At the midpoint of the conference season, the standings are all bunched up. Four teams are tied for sixth place overall.
In fact, the league standings are so tight that Auburn only sits one game behind South Carolina, the No. 6 team in the nation. And South Carolina is only one game behind second place Florida. Head to head match ups should sort out that bottleneck.
And that process begins tonight for Auburn (21-16, 7-8 SEC) and South Carolina (27-11, 8-7 SEC). The two begin a very important three game series at 6 p.m. But then again, for Auburn ... every series from here on out will be very important.
Quite simply, the Tigers have got to have wins. They have got to at least split their remaining series and improve on their road record. A sweep of at least one opponent would not only improve their record but would do wonders for their confidence.
And defending National Champion South Carolina will be coming in to Samford Stadium with a lot of confidence. The Gamecocks have won their last three series and their starting three pitchers are undefeated.
I still believe the Tigers will wind up with a good year. But the metal of Pawlowski's Tigers is about to be really tested.
Will they finish strong and propel themselves into the SEC and NCAA Tournaments? Or will they wilt into a near miss team?
We'll start getting that answer this week end.
Go Tigers, Beat the Gamecocks!