Tigers start Conference Play with a series win!
#8 Texas A&M @ #13 Auburn
- Friday: 4-1 W
- Saturday Game 1: 11-5 W
- Saturday Game 2: 5-1 L
Talk about taking what you are given. Auburn was able to parlay Aggie fielding mistakes, free bases on walks and another superb outing by Casey Mize to win opening night of conference play 4-1 on Friday night. Mize was, in a word, brilliant, giving up 5 hits over 7.1 innings and allowing only 1 run while striking out 13 for the second week in a row. It again ties his career high. On the other side, Stephen Kolek kept the Tiger bats quiet but fielding errors became the buzz word of the night as the Aggies committed 4 on his watch allowing 3 extra runs to cross on his watch. Saturday started quickly with the Aggies getting a run across before Davis Daniel could record an out but was able to quickly right the ship and hold Aggies without a run until the 5th. The two teams traded matching runs in the 5th and 6th innings (including 2 reviews that cancelled runs for each team) as Auburn found themselves down 4 – 3 as the bottom of the 8th, and that’s when the offense finally exploded. Auburn was able to put an 8 spot on the board, including a grand slam from Steven Williams to go up 11-4. A&M was able to add 1 in the top of the 9th but it wasn’t enough as Auburn took the series. The Sunday game showed why Texas A&M had only last 2 games coming in to the weekend. The Aggies played a perfect game and was aided by small but crucial Auburn fielding mistakes and were able to take the 5-1 salvage game. Overall this was a very nice start to the conference but still highlights the main things Auburn needs to work on going forward. Hitting against the conference’s best will always be a challenge but the Tigers need to be able to work pitch counts a touch better to get to those bullpen’s as quickly as possible. Luckily for the Auburn, they have a pitcher like Casey Mize, Tanner Burns and others that will keep them in almost every game this season while the offense tries to figure out the starter on the other side. Again, I am looking for the areas to improve on but overall this was a great series win against a Top 10 opponent and it starts Auburn off on the top half of the SEC.
Pitching Performance of the Weekend
I could give this to Casey Mize…again…but I will mix it up after reviewing the tape and thinking about it. This week, it goes to Welby Malczewski who went 3.1 innings of 1 hit, 1 run baseball with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts to get the win Saturday for the series clincher. When Malczewski entered in the 6th inning with 2 outs, A&M had taken a 4-2 lead with runners at 1st and 2nd and the dangerous Braden Shewmake up. Shewmake singled but Auburn was able to cut down the runner at home (on review) and the Aggies would not threaten again until the 9th when the game was all but decided. It was a great outing against the toughest competition he has seen by far and was able to pass with flying colors.
Batting Performance of the Weekend
Hitting was a bit of a lost art this weekend except for the 8th inning of Game 2 but Steven Williams get the nod for jacking two HR’s including a Grand Slam in Game 2 to help solidly put it out of reach and was the lone run for the Tigers in the Sunday game. Williams has been as good as advertised this season, batting .316 with 5 HRs and 28 RBIs so far this season. Also, his play in the field has come in handy, even if he doesn’t always take the most direct path to the ball.
Around the League
#2 Florida @ South Carolina, FRI 7-3 UF, SAT 15-7 USC, SUN 3-2 UF
This is pretty much what was to be expected from this series as the Gamecocks will do their best “discover themselves again” trip through the SEC. The bad part is, it’s going to hurt most weekends. Solid Saturday win though.
#4 Kentucky vs #10 Arkansas, FRI 9-4 ARK, SAT G1 14-2 ARK, SAT G2 16-9 ARK
Well that happened…Good Greif Arkansas! Be nice to your guests! First it was Texas for 2 earlier this week and then a drubbing of Kentucky for 3?! Welp everyone, Arkansas is for real and we are going to find out about Kentucky quick fast and in a hurry as Auburn heads up to Cliff Hagen this weekend…(we will have live coverage from Lexington this weekend by the way, YIPPIE FOR LIVE BASEBALL!)
Tennessee @ #9 Ole Miss, FRI 8-6 UT, SAT 7-1 UM, SUN 5-0 UM
Point to this as the reason why you show up ready to go every weekend for 3 games. Perhaps Tennessee has the offense to do things on Friday night only? I don’t think so but this should have been a sweep for Ole Miss and they let one slip by. Good on Tennessee for showing up ready to go for opening night, keep on pounding.
#14 Vanderbilt @ #25 Mississippi State, FRI 5-0 VU, SAT 10-1 VU, SUN 4-3 VU
So continues another chapter of the Mississippi State season. Vandy came out and dominated in every facet of the game all weekend in the new Carnegie Hall of College Baseball as State really only had a shot at the Sunday game but just wasn’t able to pull it out. Again, this is a survival season for State after being rocked by off the field issues but this wasn’t the start one would hope for. A road series sweep for Vandy is just what the doctor ordered though, after dropping a mid-weeker to Eastern Kentucky.
Missouri @ #18 LSU, FRI 4-2 LSU, SAT 12-6 MIZ, SUN 7-5 LSU
This was the series I had the most interest in outside of Auburn and I still don’t really know what to think except Missouri is going to be a tough out. Solid play from both teams this weekend in the Box but there is something just off about LSU. I can’t put my finger on it just yet but they have the offense to keep them in any game they play but the only thing I can’t think of is that they don’t have that shut down pitching they normally have. Don’t get me wrong, they have pitching talent, but just not that hold you to 1 run through 8 innings talent.
Georgia @ Alabama, FRI 10-9 UA, SAT 6-5 UGA, SUN 6-5 UGA
Well I feel a little more vindicated now, thank you Georgia. I kept saying throughout the early season that Georgia was a much better team than people realized and they just took out the darkhorse darlings in Tuscaloosa. Nothing to hang your head about if you’re the Tide though as all games were decided by 1 run.
Now its time to take a look at the standings after the first weekend, along with what would be the matchups in Hoover if the season ended today. Sure, these are probably completely wrong for the first week but as the season goes on, they will get more in line with what they will look like, plus its just fun to look at.
After another series win, the Tigers will take to the road for the next 5 games. Auburn will head up I-85 to take on Georgia Tech on the Flatts for a Tuesday evening battle. Following that, the Tigers will hit I-75 for 3 games with Kentucky this weekend. The Bat Cats will be stewing for sure after what happened to them in Fayetteville so Auburn will have to be ready for a battle in Lexington. Next week, Auburn will meet up with Alabama in Montgomery in the Capital City Classic before returning back to Plainsman Park the following weekend.