Illinois-Chicago @ #10 Auburn
- Friday: 5 – 3 W
- Saturday G1: 18 – 1 W
- Saturday G2: 7 – 3 W
- Sunday: 14 – 0 W
Coming in to the weekend, I expected Auburn to go 3-1 or, hopefully, 4-0 against the Flames of Illinois-Chicago who are coming off a very good season, winning the Horizon League Tournament Championship and pushed Louisville to beat them twice for the Regional Championship in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Tigers decided to go for the latter and sweep the series in style with a dominant pitching performance and disciplined approaches at the plate that helped Auburn outscore UIC 44-7 on the weekend.
There were a ton of debuts and a little knocking the rust off but overall, this was a solid start to the 2020 season for the Auburn Tigers. So let’s dive in to the numbers from a busy 3 days at Plainsman Park.
Pitching Performance of the Weekend
For the most part, I personally thought that the pitching for Auburn was pretty on spot. Tanner was the only one that had to knock some rust off, giving up 3 runs over 5 innings, 2 of those runs on one pitch that sailed over the monster. Other than that one pitch, the Auburn staff was excellent, striking out a total of 49 over the 4 games and allowing 7 runs, all earned which is the way you would prefer it instead of fielding errors or mental lapses that allow runs to score early in the season.
If I had to choose one though, it would have to be Richard Fitts who pitched in the second game of the double header. Fitts picked up where he left off last season, going 5 innings of 2 hit, 3 walk ball with 7 strike outs on his day. The fact that 3 of the 4 starters this weekend went at least 5 innings bodes well for the Tigers going forward and the only reason Bailey Horn didn’t go to the 5th is because Butch Thompson and Tim Hudson wanted to see different arms in live situations. The last scary thing for opponents this season is the line that Cody Greenhill put up this weekend. The Bull went 4 innings Friday night, allowing only 1 walk and 6 strikeouts to secure the first victory of the year. I love the depth of this staff and it will be a strength for the Tigers as they get deep in weekends as the season goes on.
Batting Performance of the Weekend
Now this is the toughest part of this write up. Auburn sent 16 batters to the plate over the weekend and 12 of those had multiple hits over the 4 games. The story of the weekend, however, was Judd Ward who finished the weekend 6 for 17, hitting for the cycle in the first game of the double header and being a spark plug at the top of the lineup that will definitely help set the tone for games going forward the rest of the season.
Other honorable mentions on the weekend include Rankin Woley who went 8 for 15, Ryan Bliss who turned in a 7 for 16 effort and John Samuel Shenker who was 3 for 7 in a DH and replacement role for the weekend. Oh the whole though, Auburn’s offense was stellar on the whole for the weekend, the approaches looked good and Auburn was able to stretch their legs in two of the four games.
The Tigers return to the field Tuesday to take on Oakland at 5 PM and they brace for a real test from the Central Florida Knights in a rematch of last year’s second series in Orlando. The Knights are coming off a 4-game sweep of Siena where game 1 was a 2-1 win but after that, UCF outscored the Saints 30-7 over the final 3 games. Just like last season, UCF has the offense to push ECU and the others at the top of the AAC for the conference title again this season, if not get an at-large bid to the tournament out right. Game times for this weekend are Friday at 6 PM, Saturday at 2 PM and Sunday at 1 PM. All games will be available on the SECN+.