#19 Auburn @ #2 Vanderbilt
- Thursday: 12 - 6 L
- Friday: 5 – 2 L
- Saturday: 9 – 5 L
What a difference a year makes. Last year, Auburn entered the Vandy series after a rough series against Florida and ended up sweeping the Dores going away, outscoring Vandy 29-6 over the 3 games. This year Auburn didn’t get the offense and didn’t get the consistent pitching it needed to keep them in the games against the best team they have played this season. I went and watched all 3 games against Mississippi State and all 3 against Vanderbilt, and with all due respect to the Bulldogs, Vandy is just better. 1-9 can beat you at any moment and their starting pitching and bullpen are good enough to hold you down when they need to. Auburn was able to load the bases twice on Friday and were unable to get a run across either time. This phenomenon also occurred Saturday and resulted in Auburn leaving a total of 29 runners on the bases. To further hurt the offensive efforts, Auburn struck out 32 times against Commodore pitching. The Tigers were able to get 28 hits on the weekend, but they were the definition of scattered hits as they could not get a base hit when it mattered most. The sweep hurts, don’t misunderstand, however this wasn’t a death blow to the Tigers postseason chances or to the season. Vanderbilt will be in Omaha unless something drastic happens between now and mid-June. Auburn still had one game of equity built up (sweeping Tennessee) so they are where you want to be at the beginning of the season as far as conference record. The bad news is that there is no more wiggle room. Auburn must take series against Alabama and Georgia in the next two weeks and get a game in Baton Rouge which, who know which LSU team Auburn will get there. This weekend hurts, but all is not lost…yet.
Pitching Performance of the Weekend
First off, I want to give the entire pitching staff a big round of applause for doing a commendable job of holding an explosive offense at bay for the most part. Sure, 12, 5 and 9 aren’t fantastic, but it’s better than most teams have done this season and to hold JJ Belday to 1 for 12 on the weekend with a HR and 6 punchouts, that is a pretty dang good job.
Friday was the game Auburn really should have won and the Auburn pitching staff kept them in the game to give them chances to do so. Richard Fitts had a rough first inning but bounce back to get to 2.1 innings of work but did give up 4 runs. The Performance of the weekend though goes to Senior Blake Schilleci who shut down the Dores, only giving up 4 hits in 3.2 innings while striking out 3. Schilleci has been a true gift this season for the Tigers, with his senior leadership to the younger pitchers on the staff and also his arm. I know I wasn’t expecting him to throw meaningful innings this year and then to have him deliver in those moments.
Batting Performance of the Weekend
When asked who had really surprised him from an offensive standpoint prior to the season, Gabe Gross said Judd Ward had improved the most. There have been flashes of what Coach Gross was talking about but this weekend was the first real time it has happened consistently over the weekend. Ward went a stellar 7-13 on the weekend with a double, an RBI, a walk and 3 runs scored. It was a great weekend for the sophomore and thank goodness it came or this weekend would have been even bleaker from an offensive stand point.
Auburn returns home to start up its final home stand of the season. There are no midweek games while the team takes care of finals work but will return to the diamond Friday to take on Alabama. The home stand will continue with a midweek game against UAB followed by a visit from Georgia and a final midweek game of the season against North Alabama. From there, Auburn will get a final SEC series against LSU before its Hoover time. The season is winding down and it will be a race to that finish line!