By Kevin Ives
Plainsman Parking Lot
Stormy weather is expected for Saturday's game against Kentucky but before Auburn gets there the Tigers will have to weather the storm of a Friday Night in the SEC. Since AU's opening week barrage against UGA (where the Tigers won 20-3), Auburn has been outscored by a combined total of 46-26 on Friday night. In that hideous streak of 4 straight SEC Friday losses, AU has yet to contain their opponent to single digits. Auburn has really tried everything to right the ship, from pitching shake ups to line up shifts. Nothing seems to stick. This Friday, Auburn will once again send Cory Luckie to the mound. Yet, this should be a different Luckie. Coming off his best start of the year (a complete game gem against Vandy) Luckie looked sharp and the "Mini-Maddux" seemed to have regained that early form the AU saw against UGA.
He'll take the mound against a Kentucky team that is very similar (statistically) to Auburn, as both teams are next to each other in a host of SEC pitching categories. Yes, this a UK team that can mash but they can also be hit pretty hard as well. Evidenced in the 24-8 humbling they took this week to in-state foe Western Kentucky. That's really the key, just give Luckie a lead and let him go to work.
UK is super aggressive on the bases and has two guys in Neiko Johnson and Chris Bisson who are threats to run any time they get on. Johnson has 17 steals on the year and Bisson 15 and both guys rank in the Top 10 in the SEC. Powerwise, UK has a beast in DH Andy Burns and his 11 HR, but also has a nice .276 avg and 30 strikeouts on the year. The best overall hitter and probably team leader is Chad Wright (his 55 hits lead the team). However, Kentucky's main problem this year has been the lack of leadership. There is no player on the Wildcat roster who you can look at and say, "That's the guy I want in a tie game, bases loaded, bottom nine". For Auburn we have at least three guys and that will be the main difference. UK will be hit, but Auburn needs to limit the damage (if any) by the Wildcat offense.
A ROLLERSKATING JAM NAMED SATURDAY: TBA is once again making an appearance for Auburn in Saturday. It will be done to either Cole Nelson, Slade Smith, or (possibly but unlikely) Jon Luke Jacobs or Dexter Price. Nelson got his bit of midweek medication in against Troy this week in hopes to get his confidence back. That same strategy worked to Cory Luckie (but took two mid-week starts) and he responded with his best outing of the year. We'll see who Coach John Pawlowski calls upon.
FREDDIE MERCURY- Talk about a guy who has really stepped up for Auburn. OF Justin "Freddie" Fradejas is currently riding a 19 game hitting streak where is batting .349 with 18 runs scored. He also leads the Tigers with 12 bunt base hits and that little shovel bunt seems to be a quick and dirty way for Fradejas to get on and when he does, he's lightning. A huge catalyst for Auburn in the lead off position.
HUNTING SEASON- Hunter Morris is Rivals top 1B in the nation and has shown why the Boston Red Sox picked him in the 2nd round coming out of High School. His monster tear and 13 game hitting streak has him hitting .434 with 6 doubles and 5 HRs (including two in the midweek against Troy).
LEFT TO DRY- Odd statistic, but Auburn is a perfect 10-0 at home when the opponent starts an LHP (as Kentucky will do twice this weekend).
BOTTOM LINE: The time is now for Auburn. Kentucky is a beatable team that has struggled on the road. Hoover is squarely in reach now and personally, I feel Auburn is due for a sweep. It will all start with Luckie tonight and Auburn should know by the first two innings if we are in for another Friday Fright Night or if it will be like the UGA series and the Tigers can get the broom sticks out.
Game times for this weekend are FRI (6:30pm), SAT (3pm) and SUN (1pm). None of the matchups are televised but you can always follow the Twitter for constant updates throughout the series.