Auburn will head to Nashville this weekend to face its first SEC East opponent of the year.
The Tigers will be playing Vanderbilt this weekend, looking to win a series there for the first time since 2001. To say this is a pivotal series for Auburn would be an understatement. Coming off what most would call an embarrassing sweep against Alabama last weekend, AU will need to find a way to play like it did duringn the first few weeks of the SEC season.
Here's who Auburn will be taking their hacks against...
Friday: RHP T.J. Pecoraro (0-0, 2.45)
Pecoraro is a sophomore in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. There's not a lot to go off when looking at T.J.'s stats because this will be his first SEC start, as the usual Friday starter, Kevin Ziomek, is moving to Sunday this weekend. Pecoraro has come in for relief in each of the past two weeks. In the series against South Carolina, Pecoraro pitched 2 innings in relief and had a solid outing. He faced 9 batters, striking out 2 and his only walk was an intentional base on balls.
Against Mississippi State last week, he kept Vanderbilt in a position to win the game with his 2.2 innings pitched. He allowed 1 ER on 2 hits and he also struck out 2 batters. We'll be curious to see how he does if he gets extended into the middle innings.
Saturday: RHP Tyler Beede (1-3, 4.79)
Beede figures to be quite an imposing figure on the mound Saturday. He's a 6'4 200 lb freshman. According to Vanderbilt's official site, ESPN's Mr. New England Baseball was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round last year. He was the only first round draft pick to not sign the major league contract.
Beede picked up his first win of the year two weeks ago against South Carolina. He pitched six innings officially, as he only pitched to two batters in the 7th inning without recording an out. He had a stellar outing, striking out 7 and walking only 1 batter. He gave up 5 hits in the outing and threw 90 pitches.
Against Mississippi State last weekend, Beede had a little more trouble with control. He walked 3 batters and hit 1. Control issues aside, he made it through 6 innings, allowing only one ER and put Vanderbilt in a position to win the game. In not so good news for Auburn, Vanderbilt has won in each of the SEC games that Beede has started, despite his 1-3 record.
Sunday: LHP Kevin Ziomek (2-6, 5.49)
Vanderbilt's normal Friday starter has moved to Sunday this week. Ziomek (pronounced ZO-mek) is a 6'0, 200 lb southpaw who saw a lot of playing time during Vanderbilt's College World Series run last year. Ziomek took the loss two weeks ago against South Carolina. Judging by the box score there were base runners all over the place in the loss. He threw 5.1 innings, allowed 7 hits, 6 ER, 4 walks and a hit batter. He threw 109 pitches, which is a lot for barely pitching into the sixth inning.
Last week against Mississippi State, Ziomek didn't fare much better. Only lasting two innings, he allowed 5 hits, 4 ER, 2 walks and a hit batter. He faced 13 batters in those 2 innings.
Auburn has a chance to give Friday's pitcher, Pecoraro, a warm welcome to the life of an SEC starting pitcher. We have to believe he might not go more than 4 to 5 innings since we couldn't find an outing where he lasted 3 or more innings.
It sounds like Auburn has their work cut out for them on Saturday against Beede. We'd like to see Auburn put a lot of the pressure on the defense and get off to a fast start to see how the freshman responds. What we don't want is to be in a close game late because it seems like when he is on the mound, Vanderbilt finds a way to win.
On Sunday, Auburn should be licking their chops and be ready to go up there swinging. Ziomeck figures to be in a fragile state of mind because of his last two outings. AU needs to be aggressive at the plate against Ziomek and not let him gain any confidence.