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Weekend Round-up: Tigers Slay the Knights

#21 Auburn @ Central Florida

  • Friday: 4 – 1 W
  • Saturday: 6 – 1 L
  • Sunday: 13 – 9 W

When the schedule came out, I remember looking at it and wishing the non-conference was inverted. I really like the idea of taking the team on the road against a good team just to get used to a road weekend series as the next one will be in late March against Mississippi State. However, I wanted to have the “easier” series to begin with and then test the team to see how things looked. Well, Auburn jumped right in and survived in impressive fashion. Sure, there are a lot of positive things to take from this series and things to work on, but we will get to that. In game 1, Auburn jumped out early thanks to this bomb from the Mountie Edouard Julien…

And for all intents and purposes that was the game winner on that 2 run blast. Much more happened though as Ryan Bliss would get in on the act with an RBI base hit that drove in Rankin Woley to make it 3-0 in the 4th. On the other side, Tanner Burns was masterful, his final line was 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 7 Ks. His final out of the game might have been his most impressive play though.

He gave way to Elliott Anderson who struggled a bit but was able to work through it and right the ship after the lone UCF run. Anderson would tag out to The Bull Cody Greenhill who inherited a bases loaded, 2 out jam.

UCF would not threaten again. Auburn would however thanks to the quick feet of Ryan Bliss and the situational hitting of Kason Howell.

On Saturday, Auburn would lose the perfect situational hitting that worked so well for them earlier in the season as Trevor Holloway and the UCF pitching staff forced the Tigers to strand 9 runners on the night. Kyle Gray struggled in his first road start and never really looked comfortable, only going 1.1 IP, giving up 4 Runs on 3 Hits with a strike out and 2 walks. The diamond of the night on the mound was Jack Owen who went 4.1 allowing a run on 3 hits with 8 Ks. Look for Owen to be in a starting role until Davis Daniel returns in a few weeks and possibly after that as well.

Sunday was a ton of fun if you like offense (Crow, I am looking at you). Things started off innocently enough with UCF getting a solo homer to take a 1-0 lead, and then the flood gates opened as the Tigers put 3 on the board in the 2nd, highlighted by a Conor Davis 2 run blast. UCF would turn around in the bottom half and score 4 of their own to make it 5-3. The lead, however, was short lived.

UCF would then answer in the bottom half of the frame once again to take a quick 6-5 lead. Auburn would then flex its muscle, putting up a 4 spot in the 4th, including Rankin Woley’s first Home Run as a Tiger. In the bottom of the 4th, UCF would get a 2 run homer to cut the lead to 9-8 in Auburn’s favor. Ryan Bliss would drive in 2 more in the 6th combined with Dallas Beaver’s 2nd home run of the day in the bottom half and things finally settled down at 11-9, spurred on by this Kason Howell catch.

Defense would then take center stage as both teams kept the other off the board, tied in with Auburn getting two more runs in the 9th. Auburn would turn the 1st and 2nd inning ending Double Plays on UCF this season.

It was encouraging for Auburn to get a slugfest win like this while they had a Jonny Bullpen day from the pitching staff, as the young staff struggled to get it to Anderson and Greenhill but did the job. Remember, Auburn had pitchers making their collegiate road debut’s for the first 7 innings of the Sunday game (4 different pitchers) so you can somewhat excuse their short comings for at least that day. It was a great series win against another team that will more than likely make the post season and now Auburn gets some hard earned rest and practice time to work on fielding and hitting before welcoming in a Cincinnati team that is struggling to get out of the gate this season.

Pitching Performance of the Weekend

Normally, this would be Tanner Burns without question. I mean, he came out on a Friday Night with his 1A starting buddy out and pitched a gem. But I will give it to a man in a losing effort in Jack Owen.

Owen has mainly been a Tuesday night guy and was pretty good last season but wasn’t used in critical situations. I think that changes from here on as he ate up innings and pretty much shut down the Knights and gave the offense a chance to get traction after falling behind early. That’s really all you can ask of a pitcher in that situation. Welcome to the weekends Jack Owen.

Batting Performance of the Weekend

This week was a tough job to pick just one. Sunday, everyone had a good day while Saturday was…meh. But, Ryan Bliss was a real problem for UCF. The freshman finished the weekend just 4-12 with a run scored, 3 RBIs and a walk. On that walk, Bliss tipped his hat to Willie Mays Hayes, as he was able to get to 3rd on an errant pickoff attempt and then score the final run Friday on a Kason Howell SAC fly. If he can just keep being pesky in the bottom half of the line up, Auburn will be very dangerous going forward.

On Deck

It will be a quiet week on the diamond for the Tigers, as its one of two weeks this season where Auburn doesn’t have a midweek game. Auburn Returns to play Friday at 6 against the Cincinnati Bearcats. So far this year, Cincy has been swept by Florida Atlantic and dropped a series to Houston Baptist but did get their first win of the season Sunday in a 5-4 effort. In all honesty, this is a series Auburn should sweep as you probably surmised. The Tigers have done what they needed to in their first 8 games, no more, no less. Now begins the stretch where they need to make hay and build the resume, because SEC play is right around the corner.