Auburn has only played four games away from the friendly confines of Samford Stadium - Hitchcock Field at Plainsman Park. Three of those were in Pensacola in a tournament, and then last week they demolished Georgia Tech in Atlanta in a midweek game.
After dropping the first SEC series of the season, albeit with some great offensive production and stealing one game from the Aggies, the Tigers hit the road for series #2. They're travelling to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks.
To say Auburn hitting coach Doug Sisson has put his mark on this team would be putting it mildly. Just 21 games into the season, Auburn is one long ball shy of tying last season's total number of home runs in 2015 (18). They've scored in the double-digits more times this season than in Sunny Golloway's entire tenure (thanks to the official site for that little tidbit though they didn't take the direct shot at Golloway that way).
How are they doing that? Well, Auburn enters this game on quite a few streaks. Over the last 9 games, Auburn is averaging around 15 hits per game. Anfernee Grier has a hitting streak stretching back to last season (22 games), and he and Josh Palacios have both reached base in every single game this year. On top of that, Niko Buentello is 2nd in the SEC and 3rd in the nation in RBIs at 34, and Cody Nulph leads the SEC and is second in the nation in doubles.
When you have the first two players in your lineup get on base in every game - and usually, one gets in scoring position through stealing a base - then follow them with a number of hitters excellent at slapping singles or doubles into the outfield, then you get production. Auburn had 21 hits in Tuesday's midweek game against Alabama State, and all but two of them were singles. Excellent base running and consistent hitting from almost the entire batting order have given Auburn one of the deadliest offenses in the SEC.
Auburn's pitching lineup will remain the same for this one, with the starters being Camp, Mize, and Lipscomb. All three were hit pretty hard by Texas A&M last weekend. They weren't alone, though. The bullpen took quite a beating, as well.
The Razorbacks opened their SEC schedule getting swept by South Carolina last weekend. They are currently 15-6 on the season, 0-3 in the SEC. They did manage to put up 6 runs on the Gamecocks in Friday and Saturday's games, so we know they're capable of scoring runs. Looking at their stats, they aren't far behind Auburn in many categories. Their batting average isn't quite as strong, but they are scoring runs and getting hits.
The Hawgs' pitchers have a slightly better ERA at 3.95 compared to Auburn's 4.11. The teams are closely matched in most pitching categories. Arkansas' opponents' Batting Average is .246 compared to Auburn's .245. Given that and the way Auburn's offense has been performing lately, I have to think Auburn has the advantage at the plate.
This is a very winnable series for the Tigers. I would almost go so far as to label it a must-win if Auburn hopes to be in the hunt to make the SEC Tournament. It will by no means be easy, though, as Arkansas has to see it as a must-win, as well, since they were swept last weekend and it is at their home park.
Friday, 25 March: 6:30 PM CST (SEC Network+)
Saturday, 26 March: 6 PM CST (SEC Network+)
Sunday, 27 March: 1 PM CST (SEC Network+)
Still to come.