UAB @ #21 Auburn
- Tuesday: 6 – 4 L
This was a gut punch. Yeah, it was a midweek loss so it didn’t count against the SEC record but it did hurt Auburn’s above average RPI. Just from that one loss, the Tigers fell 3 spots from 14 to 17 which doesn’t sound that, however UAB entered the contest at 159 in the RPI and that alone makes it the Tigers worst loss of the season (Jacksonville St entered the midweek near the 150s but improved their rankings greatly with a midweek win as we will find out below). There were some positives to gleam from this one though. Will Holland again went 3 for 4 with another double and a run scored while Matt Scheffler and Conor Davis continued to get reliable hits and Edouard Julien showed flashes that he might be feeling it again getting two base hits including a great hit against the shift, going the opposite way. On the mound Ryan Watson, Garrett Wade, Kyle Gray and Will Morrison combined to hold the Blazers hitless, giving up 6 walks with 4 strike outs in 4.1 innings of work. Auburn can bounce back from this and hit its goals that were set at the beginning of the season, which is pretty remarkable to think about with the injuries to the pitching staff and lack of offensive production, but Auburn will need to figure things out in a hurry with Georgia this weekend.
Around the League
- @ #5 Louisville, TUE: 6-2 W
Just Vandy being Vandy and knocking off a sure fire regional host going away. Now the Dores return to Hawkins field for (hopefully with the weather) a major series with Mizzou. I am interested to see if this will be another sweep for Vandy because if it is, we may see them run 12 straight conference wins to close the SEC regular season, and that would be an accomplishment.
#4 Mississippi State
- vs Memphis, WED: 10-9 W
WOO Boy this was a close one, State entered the bottom of the 8th down 9-8 and that’s when Elijah MacNamee slapped a double to center to score 2 and lock up the win. Now State hits the road to take on all the sudden hot Ole Miss in the Egg Series. I wish this was the Thursday Night game so I could enjoy this tonight but I guess LSU and Arky will have to do, but the good news is that it is the only conference game going Saturday night so settle in for that one.
- @ Jacksonville State, WED: 9-8 L/11
This was about all Auburn could have hoped for to be honest. Georgia had to use 6 different arms and while they were sparingly used, they still had to go and throw live so there’s that. The Dawgs suffer a tough extra innings loss that I personally wish would have gone about 5 more innings but we can’t have everything. Georgia is still the favorite this weekend but there a lot of unknowns that we will get to in a bit.
- vs Louisiana Tech, TUE: 12-1 L
This was over from the word go and good for La Tech, who had been really struggling since a tornado ripped through their baseball stadium a few weeks back. LSU didn’t crack the score board until the 7th and by that time it was 7-1. Now, LSU must regroup and play maybe the toughest homestanding team in the conference in LSU and on a short rest week.
- vs Austin Peay, TUE: 9-4 W
Nice bounce back win for the Vols after the dropped Mizzou series and now we get to see a human interest study in Gainesville. Tennessee seems to be a lock to end the SEC’s longest drought in the NCAA tournament (and with Mizzou seemingly a lock as well, that mantle would fall to Alabama, having last made it in 2014). Can Tennessee go and inch closer to .500 in the conference which would also give them a shot at hosting with their strong RPI ranking. Meanwhile, in Gainesville…
- vs South Florida, TUE: 7-3 W
Good win for the Gators as every win is big for their resume. Florida has a real shot to make a case for their Tournament lives as there is an argument and a way that Florida misses even Hoover (it’s an outside shot but it can still happen, which is amazing). Florida needs this series more than Tennessee does for sure, but needing it doesn’t mean it will be given to you. This is a major test for the Gators this weekend.
- vs Indiana, TUE: 5-2 W
Very nice win for the Wildcats as Indiana is battling for their postseason lives (if it isn’t over already). This is great momentum for the Bat Cats as they head down to Columbia to take on the Gamecocks for the inside track for that last spot in Hoover. I will have my money on Kentucky taking 2 of 3 but it will be tough.
- @ Troy, WED: 7-3 W
Speaking of that last spot in Hoover, Alabama gets a solid momentum builder before they head home to take on the Aggies. It would be massive for Alabama to get the series win and match either Carolina or Kentucky on the weekend, but it will be an uphill battle with 2 of the better starting pitchers in the conference.
- vs Furman, WED: 7-4 L
Ouch. The Auburn and LSU losses this week were worse than this because of post season standings but for a team this one hurts. Carolina has to get their heads right for Kentucky now and a chance at any games in Hoover. That will be tough but if they can scratch out 2, the Gamecocks might extend their streak of getting to the Tournament.
On Deck (with SEC Schedule and this week’s C&M Top 25 Rankings)
- #20 LSU @ #3 Arkansas (THU-SAT)
- #23 Missouri @ #2 Vanderbilt (FRI-SUN)
- #4 Mississippi State @ #13 Ole Miss (FRI-SUN)
- #7 Georgia @ #24 Auburn (FRI-SUN)
- #17 Texas A&M @ Alabama (FRI-SUN)
- #18 Tennessee @ Florida (FRI-SUN)
- Kentucky @ South Carolina (FRI-SUN)
Now this is more like it! 4 Top 25 matchups and a postseason play in series to boot! For Auburn, it’s just another series it really needs to have against a Top 10 ball club. In this week’s installment, it’s the 7th ranked Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia is fighting to catch up to Vandy in the SEC East and is also playing for a bye on Tuesday in Hoover. The Dawgs, like Auburn, are also looking to get back their ace this weekend, Auburn with Tanner Burns and Georgia with Emerson Hancock. Hancock has sat out the last 2 weekends to mixed results (a blowout loss to State and a win against Florida), and has SEC Pitcher of the Year numbers with a 1.04 ERA in 69 innings with a 77 to 15 K to BB ratio. He also has a sterling .143 BA/against. Look for Georgia to also throw Tim Elliott (2.56 ERA) and Tony Locey (2.63 ERA) on the weekend. If Auburn can somehow work pitch counts and get them out of the game in the 4th or 5th innings, they are ahead of the game as the Georgia pen is pretty good, but not exceptional. At the plate, there are 3 to 4 names to remember. LJ Talley leads the Bulldogs with a .341 BA and is second on the team with 8 bombs. He is followed closely but A-a-ron Schunk and his .337 BA while Riley King is also above .300 with a .307. Tucker Maxwell is the Mark Reynolds of the team as he paces the Bulldogs in Home Runs and Strikeouts with 10 and 50 respectively. He is also a lefty so handle him with care against the Monster.
As I mentioned, Auburn looks to get back Tanner Burns and if they do, this would be the first time since the Tennessee series that Auburn had the Burns and Owen matchup on Friday and Saturday. It was also the tail end of Auburn’s winnings streak. So the question is, can the renaissance in pitching depth equate to better production with the bats. Perhaps the offense won’t press feeling it NEEDS to score runs and just play the game? It’s amazing to think that we still have questions with 7 games left on the schedule, but this hasn’t been a normal season to say the least. If Auburn can get back to the form we saw in early March, this will get very interesting.