For the better part of a decade now, Auburn has mimicked the style of the Baltimore Orioles. It plays its games surrounded in luxury, in perhaps the finest collegiate baseball facility in America, drawing comparisons to beautiful Camden Yard in Maryland. Like its brethren to the north, Auburn baseball has not been worthy of the showplace it calls home.
In recent years it has become a graveyard for up and coming coaches. Worse, theories began to take root that it was impossible to win on the Plains. No, the claims had no merit; but when you lose year in and year out some start believing.
All of that changed for good Saturday afternoon. In what will go down as the most thrilling baseball game in Tiger history, Auburn turned the page on the past and ushered in a new era of Auburn baseball. Falling behind by nine runs in the second inning, John Pawlowski's team dug in and sent flying a record seven home runs in a furious comeback that ended with a 16-14 win over Miss State.
Auburn's renaissance started weeks earlier, but Saturday's win will be remembered as the turning point for a program that's clearly headed to bigger and better things. On Mother's Day they finished the job, getting their first home SEC sweep since 2002 with an 11-8 win.
"I told the guys, ‘This is going to be the best comeback we've had this year,' " Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "Whether the guys believed it or not, they found a way."
Everyone believes today.
With the series win, Auburn finds itself 33-15 overall and 15-9 in SEC play. Pawlowski's group has now won five consecutive conference games and three series in a row. Yesterday's victory gives the Tigers one more win than all of last season with 10 regular season games remaining.
Talk has now shifted from making the SEC Tournament in Hoover to winning it. What a difference a year makes. "It certainly gives us confidence to know that we can play with anybody in this league," Pawlowski said. "Certainly if you can play with anybody in this league, you can play with anybody in this country."
The 19th ranked Tigers are now a lock to make the season ending conference tournament and looking good for a possible NCAA bid. Auburn's magic number to clinch its first SEC Tournament berth since 2003 is two as it sits five games head of ninth-place Alabama (10-14 SEC) with six conference games remaining.
Heading into Sunday's series finale, Auburn ranked 14th in the latest RPI projections used to select teams for NCAA tournament play. Barring a late season collapse, Pawlowski is likely heading back to the big show.
Coaching gets a lot of attention for good reason. In less than two years, Pawlowkski has taken a down and out program and turned Plainsman Park into a launching pad. After a record 102 home runs last season, Auburn already has 92 dingers in its first 48 games.
Baseball is fun again in Auburn. The team believes and so does its fans. This type of thing is happening in sports all across campus. Saturday's win may be a metaphor for Auburn Athletics as a whole. Skies are clearing and fun is returning. Whether its football, basketball or baseball, you can't help but believe bigger and better days are ahead.
Life is good in Auburn.