Auburn enters the Tiger Classic at 2-2, coming off a rough loss to Alabama State in the 2014 home opener. For the most part, the Tigers' pitching has been solid during the young season, but execution on offense has left quite a bit to be desire. The Friday night matchup against Arkansas Pine-Bluff should go well, and a good performance in the finale against East Tennessee State will likely result in a win. But on Saturday, Auburn gets a good test in Cal, ranked 37th in the Warren Nolan RPI.
The Tigers opened the Sunny Golloway era with some masterful pitching and a good effort at manufacturing runs. It was Indiana State's lone loss during the Snowbird Classic.
More great pitching, but the offense faltered against the Buckeyes. The Tigers twice had lead runners cut down at third on sac bunt attempts, another bunt resulted in a pop out and a botched hit-and-run led to an easy out at home.
Keegan Thompson made his pitching debut, and he didn't disappoint. The true freshman allowed one unearned run and struck out nine in 5 2/3 innings.
It was like a bad flashback: The Tigers came completely unglued late, giving up all nine runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Three of the runs were unearned.
Tiger Classic: UAPB, Cal, ETSU
Friday vs. Arkansas Pine-Bluff, 6 p.m. CT
Sr. RHP Dillon Ortman (1-0, 0.00) vs. TBA
Saturday vs. Cal, 6 p.m. CT
Sr. LHP Michael O'Neal (0-1, 1.50) vs. Sr. LHP Kyle Porter (0-0, 1.80)
Sunday vs. East Tennessee State, 2 p.m. CT
Fr. RHP Keegan Thompson (1-0, 0.00) vs. Sr. RHP Jimmy Nesselt (1-0, 3.86)
Beautiful, clark. The night games on Friday and Saturday will be a little chilly, but that Sunday finale will be just fine.
Around the SEC
Holy Cross at No. 2 Mississippi State
LSU Tournament, Baton Rouge
No. 3 LSU vs, Virginia Tech, Toledo, Texas Southern
Georgia at No. 5 Florida State
Illinois-Chicago at No. 8 Vanderbilt
Eastern Kentucky at No. 10 South Carolina
No. 16 Florida at No. 11 Miami
Sacramento State at No. 24 Texas A&M
Georgia State at No. 27 Ole Miss
Stephen F. Austin at No. 28 Alabama
UNLV at Tennessee
Eastern Illinois at Arkansas
ODU Tournament, Norfolk, Va.
Kentucky vs. Saint Joseph's, Old Dominion, St. John's
Wake Forest Tournament, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Missouri vs. Radford, Wake Forest, Cincinnati
Auburn needs to take at least two out of three from this weekend, but more importantly, the Tigers need to look better at the plate. They have just two extra-base hits through four games, both coming in the loss to Alabama State. And while Golloway's brand of small ball has been a success at times, the lineup has also struggled some to get down bunts and make contact on hit-and-run plays.
Pine-Bluff and ETSU are two sub-200 RPI teams, so Friday and Sunday should provide opportunities to pad the win-loss record. But Auburn can really boost its confidence -- and its RPI -- against Cal on Saturday. The Golden Bears opened the season with a four-game series against Texas, and they took two games from the Longhorns, who were ranked as high as No. 18 at the time. The Bears have had a couple of down years, but they made three NCAA Tournament appearances from 2008 to 2011 and went all the way to Omaha three years ago. They've struggled at the plate this year, putting up a .223 batting average and just five RBI, but the 2.75 ERA is solid.
Winning two of three would keep Auburn on the right track. A weekend sweep would show that the Tigers may be ready to take a step forward.