Auburn has just four SEC series remaining in the 2016 baseball season, and it's definitely desperation time. Sitting at 18-23 overall and 5-13 in the conference, it's going to take a fantastic run through the final 12 conference games to get the Tigers back into any post-season conversation.
Auburn's trip to Ole Miss last weekend definitely did not end well, and Wednesday night's loss to South Alabama didn't help matters. Still, Auburn is trying to take their second home SEC series in a row against the Kentucky Wildcats, who are 26-15 overall and 10-8 in conference play. That's good for tied for third in the SEC East with Vanderbilt and they did manage to win their series with #1 Florida, so it's going to be a tough series for Auburn.
The Tigers have played the last few weekends without Josh Palacios and Daniel Robert in the lineup, and their absence has definitely shown in the offensive production. Auburn's overall production in SEC play has been much lower than in the nonconference schedule. That was expected, but it hasn't been helped since a big chunk of the production has been out the last few weeks.
Auburn has the advantage in team batting average with a .308 to Kentucky's .279. The opponent average is higher for Auburn, though, with Auburn allowing opponents to hit .259 to Kentucky's .236. That's unsurprising given the Tigers' bullpen woes. Auburn has maintained a pretty good slugging percentage and on-base percentage (.440 and .398), but Kentucky hasn't been too shabby, either (.420 and .362). You have to think Auburn's numbers might be a tiny bit higher with Palacios in the lineup since he's good for getting on base in virtually every single game he's played this season.
On the defensive side, the bullpen and errors are still an issue. Casey Mize pitched a brilliant 7 innings in Sunday's loss to the Rebels last week, but he may have had the energy to go the distance if innings hadn't been extended by Auburn's SIX errors during the game. Auburn committed 12 errors over the course of the Ole Miss series. That's bad.
This weekend will feature Cole Lipscomb starting Game 1, Justin Camp in Game 2, and To Be Announced for Game 3. That could be any number of different pitchers from Casey Mize to Andrew Mitchell to even putting Gabe Klobosits back out in a starting position.
Auburn's team ERA leaves a bit to be desired at 4.38. Kentucky, meanwhile, has a 3.66 team ERA.
Time is running out on Butch Thompson's first season as Auburn's head coach. He came into a very tough situation not even having fall practice with his squad, but even he acknowledges this team should be better. It's going to be a tough rebuild, though. He will get at least 5 years to try to fix what Sunny Golloway wrought. Right now it's looking more like all we can really do is hope for a strong finish.
This weekend is Military Appreciation Weekend on the Plains, where servicemen with an ID can buy a ticket and get another ticket for free. I was offered the chance to throw out the first pitch in Saturday's game, but unfortunately, that afternoon I will be at an engagement party. I was going to do it grenade-toss style, too. Start at 2nd, run up and drop prone behind the mound, peak over the mound to observe, hop up to one knee, "pull the pin," throw the baseball like a grenade, and drop down. It would have been great. Ah well.
Unfortunately, since it's Military Appreciation Weekend, that also means we'll be seeing those awful camo hats at some point. Say it with me folks: camouflage is a tool, not a uniform fashion.
How to Watch:
Friday, 6:00 pm Central, WatchESPN/SEC Network+
Saturday, 6:00pm Central, SEC Network
Sunday, 1:00pm Central, WatchESPN/SEC Network+