Chicago State @ #17 Auburn
- Friday: 6-0 W
- Saturday: 16-2 W
- Sunday: 9-0 W
The Tigers did exactly what they needed to in their final tune up before conference play by dominating Chicago State in ever facet of all 3 games this past weekend. Almost everyone and everything could be highlighted from the pitching, to the defense, to the at bats as the Tigers were challenged at times by the Cougars, especially Friday night and the first part of the Sunday contest. However, overall for the weekend, Auburn had their way, racking up 48 hits to the Cougars 12 and not committing an error the entire weekend. The other encouraging sign for the Tigers was that Tanner Burns returned to the form Auburn needs him to be from here on. Burns had been concerned that he was tipping pitches after the UIC and UCF games and had been working on his delivery with pitching coach Tim Hudson and that work obviously paid off as Burns had a no-no going through 6 and gave up his only hit in the 7th while striking out 10 and walking 3 on the evening. Auburn would love to have Burns go 6 or 7 each weekend which could free up Greenhill to make another appearance on the weekend if he can make his Friday night outing a short one. On a side note, I am interested to see how Burns does the rest of the season as Tanner did not go complete game in the non conference schedule. That is the fist time that’s happened since 2017 (at least that I remember) as Casey Mize went CG against Northeastern in 2018 and Tanner did it against Cincinnati last year. The reason I bring this up? Both Tanner and Casey would admit that they didn’t have the finish to both of those years that they wanted (Casey seemed tired in the postseason in 2018 while Tanner got injured last year and wasn’t the guy he wanted to be in Omaha and during the post season run). Not having that stress can only be a good thing as the season unfolds.
To wrap it up, Chicago State was completely overmatched against an improving ballclub, but now its time to see what the Tigers are made of, and how far they have come in the past 2 weeks since the UCF debacle.
Pitching Performance of the Weekend
As mentioned above, Tanner had the best weekend of the season so far, but for me Bailey Horn had the outing Coach Thompson and Coach Hudson wanted to see from him all year. Horn went 6 innings of 4 hit, 11 strikeout ball on 74 pitches. That’s an excellent showing and is eerily similar to his postseason start against Georgia Tech to wrap up the regional. Now the question is, can he string another start like this in conference play. If he can, Auburn will be that much closer to getting that illusive Regional Host situation that they are gunning for this year.
Batting Performance of the Weekend
While most of the team had a good weekend at the plate, it was awesome to see Kason Howell have an above and beyond weekend at the dish. Howell turned in a 7 for 12 (.583) for the weekend, with 4 runs scored, 4 RBIs and 2 doubles. Howell has been battling a hamstring issue since week one, much like Steven Williams, but both seem to be coming out of it just in time for the offense (Williams had the ‘put it to bed’ 3 run homer on Friday night). If both outfielders can come back and play with that chip on the shoulder that Coach Thompson is wanting the Tigers to play with from here on out, it will make it a lot easier to do so.
Welp, turn the page on the Non-conference slate (at least the weekend portions) and we turn now to the gauntlet that is the Conference schedule. Before the Tigers host the Aggies this weekend though, Auburn will continue the home stand against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Tuesday night and then a Wednesday night tilt against Wofford. The Jackets enter Tuesday with a 10-5 record that includes being swept by Georgia in a weekend series but Tech is coming off a home series win of Virginia Tech. Tech is also just 1-1 away from Russ Chandler this season. The Terriers on the other hand are 13-3 but will be playing only their 2nd game away from the friendly confines of home. Wofford is coming off of a series win over Merrimack College in Spartanburg last weekend, but dropped a mid-week contest to USC-Upstate on Tuesday.