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Midweek Round-up: @ Jacksonville State

#21 Auburn @ Jacksonville State

  • Tuesday: 14 – 2 W

It was a night for revenge Tuesday evening in Jacksonville. In the first meeting of the Tigers and the Gamecocks, the offense showed up for a true inning but that was it. Pitching was there early, but ended up allowing 11 runs in a 5 run loss. This meeting, however, was completely different. Auburn had a completely different line up, with Devin Warner, Everett Lau and Chase Hall all getting starts and before it was done Brody Moore would also get some hacks at the plate and all would cash in on them. Those four would combine to go 7 for 14 with 7 runs scored, two doubles and two stolen bases.

On the mound for the Tigers, Ryan Watson was exactly what Auburn asked of him, going 3.1 innings, giving up 4 hits and a run with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts. Peyton Glavine was also sharp in his first action in over a month, going 1.2 innings with a hit, a walk and two strikeouts to his credit.

It was also Auburn’s first midweek win in over a month (Mar 19th against UAB, just before the Mississippi State series) to improve the Tigers to 7-4 in midweek contests, with 2 more to play against UAB and North Alabama. As it comes down to the end of the season and selection Monday, those games are very important and can give you a leg up over another team in the seeding process. We will hit on that more next week, but this was a bigger win than one would realize, especially with the 3 games this weekend on the horizon.

Around the League

#4 Georgia

  • vs #12 Georgia Tech (SunTrust Park, Atlanta), TUE: 8-6 L

Not a terrible loss for the Bulldogs as Danny Hall has the Jackets back to what they normally are (as Auburn has found out). As for this weekend, this will be Georgia’s biggest test since it’s on the road. State is just coming off being swept at Arkansas and returns home where they are 6-3 in the conference. This is a big series for Georgia but maybe even bigger for State who needs to keep pace in the West.

#5 Mississippi State

  • vs #20 Ole Miss (Pearl, MS), TUE: 8-1 W

Big win for the Bulldogs to just get the funk they had in Fayetteville and now they turn their attention to another top ranked team in the Georgia Bulldogs. As I said above, this is almost a must win series for State right? Currently the Western Division Bulldogs are looking up at LSU, A&M and Arkansas in the rankings and have series losses against LSU and the Piggies. Meanwhile they are tied with Auburn and Ole Miss at 10-8 and while Ole Miss has A&M and Auburn tussles with Vandy, it would be a heck of a weekend to have a home series drop.

#9 Arkansas

  • vs Northwestern State, TUE: 19-2 W, WED: 10-7 L

Back when I was younger I would go up to dad and tell him the exploits of the Hal Baird led Auburn Tigers, when they would win games 14-1 or 12-3. He would respond, well I hope they don’t need some of those runs today. I would walk away confused only to see Auburn had lost the next day 4-2. Flash forward to today, and I bet Arkansas had “saved” some of those runs for Wednesday. Northwestern State isn’t a terrible loss, checking in this morning at 99 in the RPI but it definitely isn’t one Arkansas wanted to take with the role they were on. Guess its better in the midweek than Saturday or Sunday this weekend against Tennessee.

#10 Texas A&M

  • vs UT Arlington, TUE: 10-5 W

A better win that you might think. Arlington has been getting some love from a few polls this week so a nice 5 run win is exactly what Coach Childress and the Aggies wanted here. Now they take flight to Oxford where a bunch of unhappy Rebels await. The Aggies would get a first round bye in Hoover if the season ended right now and have built up a little equity going on the road, but that won’t make this any easier in one of the more hostile places to play in the conference.

#13 LSU

  • vs Lamar, TUE: 5-3 W

Midweekers have been scary for LSU so a good win over a team that they shouldn’t lose to. The good news for LSU is that they have a shot to get a much needed 4-0 weekend as they travel to Tuscaloosa. That said, you just never know with this LSU team.

#17 Tennessee

  • vs Garner-Webb, TUE: 5-0 W

The Vols just keep rolling, but it’s about to get muuuuch bumpier with the all the sudden white hot Arkansas Razorbacks. Tennessee has started to become a darling to possibly host a regional after not being in the NCAA tournament since they went to Omaha back in 2005. That would be a heck of a shift but to do that they could really use a good showing at Baum Stadium.

#20 Ole Miss

  • vs #5 Mississippi State (Pearl, MS), TUE: 8-1 L

This isn’t an awful loss as far as the season goes but it always hurts to lose to your rival. The Rebs head back to Swazey Field to host the Aggies in a series that they really must get a win in. in the past 2 week, Ole Miss is 2-4 against Kentucky and Auburn after starting 8-4 on the year in conference play. It won’t be easy though, A&M has only dropped one series all year and that was at LSU.

Kentucky

  • @ Western Kentucky, TUE: 15-4 W

Very nice road win to get above .500 on the year. The Bat Cats hope that luck heads south with them as they travel down I-75 to take on the Gators. This will be an interesting series just from the question of who wants to win it. Kentucky has proven they can win on the road (ask Ole Miss) and Florida isn’t playing great…

Florida

  • vs Florida Atlantic, TUE: 13-11 L

…see told ya. The fighting Lane Kiffin’s get revenge for losing game 7 of the Gainesville Regional last season with this Tuesday night victory. Florida is getting dangerously close to being out of the big dance all together. That makes this a monster series for the Gators as they head to Athens next weekend, host Tennessee and then travel to CoMo to take on the Tigers to finish the year. It’s a rough road to end for the Gators.

Missouri

  • vs Missouri State, TUE: 6-2 W

Another good win over Missouri State as the Tigers head back for the Battle of Columbia against South Carolina. This should be a nice bounce back series after a rough go of it on the road against Georgia. It needs to be a series win but a sweep wouldn’t hurt either.

South Carolina

  • vs Charleston Southern, TUE: 10-3 W

Nothing to see here really, just another midweek win. Carolina is running out of chances to make that final push to lock in to the big tournament. Both Kentucky and Alabama are misfiring so wins against Missouri and Kentucky in 2 weeks would go a long way to locking the Gamecocks in to Hoover which should be the main goal right now.

Alabama

  • @ Jacksonville State, WED: 6-3 W

Rough weekend for the in-state Gamecocks as Alabama finishes off Jax State the day after Auburn does. Say what you will about Alabama’s conference record (it isn’t good) but they have done what they needed to in midweek ballgames, going 11-1 on the season. There, I said a positive thing about them, there’s your Easter Week miracle. Now send LSU there way and let’s see what happens. To be honest, it wouldn’t hurt Auburn if Alabama were to win 1 or 2 here but I don’t think any of us would shed a tear if another sweep happened just before they come to the Plains.

On Deck (with SEC Schedule)

  • Auburn @ Vanderbilt (THU-SAT)
  • Texas A&M @ Ole Miss (THU-SAT)
  • Georgia @ Mississippi State (FRI-SUN)
  • Tennessee @ Arkansas (FRI-SUN)
  • LSU @ Alabama (FRI-SUN)
  • Kentucky @ Florida (FRI-SUN)
  • South Carolina @ Missouri (FRI-SUN)

Massive weekend for baseball in the conference, headlined by Georgia visiting Mississippi State, which will be my Sunday entertainment since the Tigers will be heading back home from West End, Saturday evening. The other series I will be checking lines on is Tennessee and Arkansas but my eyes will be directly on Hawkins Field, literally, as I will be there. Auburn has won 3 of their last 4 and has gotten the reinforcements for the season in the person of Jack Owen. Steve Smith and Butch Thompson know who they can count on out of the young arms (Brooks Fuller and Richard Fitts) and can mix that with others from the bullpen (Ryan Watson Elliott Anderson) that can get the game to the Bull, while the offense seems to be getting back to the form we remember them at back in early March.

This weekend though will be the toughest test of the season, bar none. Vanderbilt has an embarrassment of riches, at the plate, in the field and on the hill. On offense, they currently have 6 hitters batting over .300 in Austin Martin (.400), JJ Bleday (.363), Ethan Paul (.348), Cooper Davis (.336), Stephen Scott (.313) and Philip Clarke (.307). Bleday is the guy that is on fire right now after hitting 4 bombs against Alabama last weekend and far and away leads the team with 20 dingers on the year. It doesn’t get any easier when you go to the mound as the Dores will trot out Drake Fellows (8-0, 3.39 ERA) and Patrick Raby (6-1, 2.94 ERA) in the first two games without question. Both will pitch in the big leagues, it’s just a question of when. The game 3 starter is a bit of a question mark for Vandy but it doesn’t mean it’s an easy win by any means. Last weekend it was Kumar Rocker getting the start and going 5 innings for the Dores but they could aslo go with Mason Hickman in this spot just as easily. This will be an up hill series for the Tigers, but one that they desperately need to at least get a win in. Auburn has done a fantastic job to not get swept in a series so far this season and that really needs to continue if Auburn hopes to stay in contention to host a regional this season, which is still very much within their grasp, especially with the series they still have on the schedule. It starts Thursday night in Nashville though. As Coach Thompson said, “If you want to get respect, go play good this weekend. If you really want to get respect from our league and really national, this will be a great weekend to play well.”