The Auburn baseball team refuses to let this season end with a whimper. Auburn went to Fayetteville over the weekend and won two of three games against Arkansas. The Razorbacks came into this weekend ranked as high as No. 13 in the major polls. The Tigers have five games left in the regular season. Two non-conference games on Monday and Tuesday are followed by a three-game set at Plainsman Park against a Florida team that has been ranked in the top five all year long. Auburn clinched a spot in the SEC Tournament, and the Tigers did a lot to help their NCAA chances this weekend, but more work still needs to be done to guarantee a berth.
WHAT WENT RIGHT?
Young guys stepping up -- Patrick Savage and Mitchell Self got thrown into the fire this weekend and responded in a big way. Patrick Savage came in on Thursday when first baseman Garrett Cooper went down with back spasms. He played the rest of the series at first base and the offense did not miss a beat without Cooper. Savage hit two home runs and provided some clutch hitting. Self took the suspended Zach Alvord's spot in the lineup on Saturday and Sunday. He played solid defense at third base, including taking a hard ground ball to his face. He also provided some offense with a few well-hit balls.
Two-out offense -- After all of the frustrations and struggles that Auburn has had this year with two outs and with runners in scoring position, the Tigers did great in those situations this weekend. Unofficially, Auburn was 7 of 10 with four RBIs when it had two outs. With runners in scoring position, Auburn was 10 of 19 against Arkansas.
Clutch pitching -- Jon Luke Jacobs did his best Greg Maddux impression on Friday. He went eight strong innings and continued his successful season. Even though his pitching performance didn't make SportsCenter, he at least made the show by taking a pie to the face. Along with JLJ, Derek Varnadore and Justin Bryant also provided big performances. Varnadore relieved JLJ and picked up the win on Thursday. Bryant came in with the bases loaded on Saturday and got Arkansas' best hitter to pop up to get out of the inning and avoid further damage.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
Situational baseball -- There were quite a few instances where Auburn had a hard time moving runners over. This Auburn team is not good enough to not play good situational baseball. There were instances of having runners on first and second with no one out and not being able to get both runners in scoring position. There were also times when there would be bases loaded or runners on second and third and the Tigers would only get one or zero runs. When Auburn is given those opportunities, the Tigers have to take advantage.
Off-field Issues -- For the second time in three weeks, an Auburn baseball player was suspended for a violation of team rules. In both cases, the suspended player has been a key part to the Tigers' line up. Zach Alvord was out of the lineup on Friday and Saturday, and with Self's play at third base this weekend, we'll be interested to see if Alvord is out there next week.
Defense -- It is safe to say that Auburn could have left Fayetteville with three wins instead of two. The defense on Saturday was a letdown and led to the loss. By this time of the season, teams are who we think they are. Auburn is a bad defensive team.
Patrick Savage, 1B -- Pat "Macho Man" Savage took advantage of his opportunity and had an outstanding series. He earns our MVP this week. Garrett Cooper is a big part of the Auburn offense, and Savage made sure that it did not miss a beat when Coop went down on Thursday. In honor of Patrick's MVP, College and Magnolia staff member Everett Duke made up a graphical representation of the first baseman's weekend against Arkansas.
Going into the Arkansas series, most rational Auburn fans more than likely expected taking one game from the Razorbacks was the Tigers' best-case scenario. And if Auburn had left Fayetteville winless, it wouldn't have been much of a surprise. The fact that Auburn was able to take two of three on the road against a top 15 team shows just how good this team can be. The Tigers clinched their trip to Hoover, and with a couple of wins this week, they should wrap up a berth in an NCAA regional. Auburn still has problems, and the Tigers' inconsistency makes it hard to predict what they might be able to do in the postseason. Nevertheless, this weekend's series win proves that Auburn has the ability to surprise some people.