Auburn beat Kentucky last night 6-3, all but cementing a place in an NCAA Regional. Our reward? A matchup with the conference champ and #1 team in America, LSU.
LSU took the regular season series 2-1 with Auburn's sole win coming by virtue of a masterful complete game from Keegan Thompson that LSU coach Paul Maineiri called "as good a pitching performance as any I've seen in my nine years as the coach at LSU against one of our teams." With Keegan's availability uncertain, Auburn will likely have to find answers elsewhere.
This LSU team is loaded offensively with four all-SEC performers and one second team all-SEC who has better stats than those four. Catcher Kade Scivique hit .363 with five home runs. Shortstop Alex Bregman hit .329 with 9 homers and an amazing 29 stolen bases. Third baseman Conner Hale is a base hit machine, batting .353. Speedy centerfielder Andrew Stevenson hits .360 with five triples and 22 stolen bases. First baseman Chris Chinea was named second team all-SEC for batting .374 with 11 homeruns.
The good news is that somehow, Auburn's pitching did a decent job slowing the LSU offensive juggernaut down in Baton Rouge. The Tigers held LSU to an average of 3.33 runs per game. LSU never had more than 7 hits against the Tigers. In fact, pitchers not named Rocky McCord only gave up two earned runs in 25 innings of work at the Box.
Auburn hasn't named a starter yet but I'd like to see Auburn go with Dalton Rentz. No Auburn starter has a lower ERA than Rentz and only Cole Lipscomb has a better opposing batting average. It would be fun to see what he can do against a historically good LSU offense. Also, LSU didn't see him in the first series so it would present LSU with something new. On top of that, Rocky McCord is the only pitcher LSU really rocked in Baton Rouge. McCord, the Sunday starter gave up six runs (five earned) in two innings. Rocky is a good pitcher who has had a good year but this may not be a favorable matchup for him.
On the mound, LSU is going with Jared Poche. The big southpaw sophmore has a good fastball and a nasty 12-6 curve. Last year he was named freshman All-American. He's gone 7-1 this year in 14 starts with a 3.18 ERA. Auburn hit Poche well in Baton Rouge earlier this year but wasn't able to turn those hits into runs. Poche went 5.2 innings, giving up 8 hits and two earned runs and picked up the win in the process.
LSU is a better team than Auburn and should blow us off the field but seems like we heard that recently in an SEC Tournament game:
We learned something in Auburn's win against Kentucky. This is a team built for the Hoover Met. The Tigers hit line drives and use their speed to their advantage. While not comparable on a talent level, this team reminds me of the old Hal Baird squads that used to punch out of their weight class in the cavernous Met.
Side note, for those who haven't been to Hoover before, the Met is 340' to the foul poles, 385' to left and right center, and 405' to straight away centerfield. As seen below, that makes the Met 10-20' deeper than almost every SEC East and SEC West stadium especially in the power alleys. Balls that would be homeruns in any other park are really long outs in Hoover. Unless you have Skip Bertman Gorilla Ballers, it's best to attack the Met with sharp line drives that turn into doubles rather than swinging for the fences. By comparison (courtesy of Tiger Droppings):
If Auburn hits Poche like they did in Baton Rouge and keeps that magic on the mound, good things will happen. I smell an upset. Auburn to the winner's bracket 7-4.
How to Watch, Stream, Listen Live
First pitch: 4:30 CST.
TV: SEC Network
Streaming: WatchESPN / SEC Network +
Listen: Auburn IMG Network