Auburn Baseball: “They Needed This”

April 22, 2018 By Taylor Jones

Edouard Julien (10).
Auburn Baseball vs UAB on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, in Auburn, Ala.
Dakota Sumpter / Auburn Athletics

Auburn goes 4-0 on the week, offense explodes by outscoring their opponents 56-12 in four games

Not many teams are lucky enough to have the good fortunes that the 25th-ranked Auburn baseball team had this week. Frankly, it was a week well-deserved.

Not because they won four games, three against their arch-rivals, but it was the icing on a very sweet cake.

The Tigers entered the week on somewhat of a high note. Auburn had taken two-of-three from Mississippi State, which was their second SEC series win in five opportunities. They also seemed to snap out of an offensive cold streak by scoring seven runs in Sunday’s finale, which was the most runs scored in a conference game since scoring five runs on Missouri on March 30. Auburn had failed to score more than four runs in all but one game over the previous three SEC weekend series.

It was still too early to tell, however. They had only scored four runs total in the first two games of the series with the Bulldogs and were about to begin a tough stretch against three in-state foes, and the defending National Champions over the next two weeks. When Auburn took the field on Tuesday to battle the UAB Blazers, one thing was for certain… Auburn’s bats were back.

Auburn opened the game by scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning and went on to score nine runs over the final three innings to defeat the Blazers, 12-2. Conor Davis’ three-hit, three-RBI day led the charge for the Tigers.

Auburn needed to pack that momentum and carry it on the bus to Tuscaloosa for their three-game series against Alabama. The Crimson Tide, led by former Auburn assistant coach Brad Bohannon, has had Auburn’s number over the last few years. Last season, the Crimson Tide swept Auburn at Plainsman Park, which was three of only five SEC wins that Alabama collected in the 2017 season.

In game one, Auburn trailed Alabama 3-2 after five innings. The Tigers then unloaded 16 runs over the next three innings en route to a 19-5 whacking of Alabama, to take a 1-0 series lead. The Tiger bats hit three home runs in the contest, including a grand slam by Brendan Venter in the 6th inning.

Due to expected inclement weather across the state on Sunday, the Tigers and Tide elected to play two games on Saturday. In those two games, Auburn outscored Alabama 25-5, taking the series in Tuscaloosa for the first time since 2004, and completing a three-game sweep of the Crimson Tide for the first time since 1976.

Saturday’s meetings were brought to you by the number “11.” The doubleheader featured an eleven-strikeout performance by Tanner Burns and Cody Greenhill in game one’s 5-0 win, and an eleven-run 8th inning in game two, capped by a three-run home run by Edouard Julien en route to a 20-5 win.

To say that Head Coach Butch Thompson was pleased with his team’s effort, would be the understatement of the season.

“All three games, that was about as complete as we’ve been and as business-like, as I’ve seen our guys on the road,” Thompson said on Saturday. “We made a big deal about being 1-5 on the road. Pitching-wise, our at-bats, even as things were getting out of hand, we stayed locked in. It was a very complete weekend for us. Hopefully, we can keep competing hard and stay focused.”

Pitching improvements

Head Coach Butch Thompson made changes to the pitching rotation earlier this week, announcing that Davis Daniel would be moved to the bullpen, and would be used in the weekend series against Alabama. That, along with a few different strategies, played a factor in Auburn’s successful week.

Thompson gave Calvin Coker the mid-week start against UAB on Tuesday in an effort to give him some innings after not using him in the Mississippi State series. Coker’s outing was nice, but Elliot Anderson’s appearance played a huge factor in strategy for the weekend. Coker pitched four innings, so did Anderson. However, Anderson got Auburn to the 9th inning by not allowing a run and striking out 7 of the 12 batters he faced. Welby Malczewski slammed the door in the ninth, giving Auburn the win.

Thompson mentioned earlier in the week that Casey Mize would probably not repeat his complete-game performance from the Mississippi State series on Friday against Alabama, because of Auburn’s next series with Florida beginning next Thursday. Despite a bases-clearing double in the 4th inning that scored three runs, Mize’s outing was very standard. Five innings, eight strikeouts, two walks.

The law firm of Burns and Greenhill did their job again on Saturday, combining for 11 strikeouts in game one’s shutout win.  The combination of Andrew Mitchell and Davis Daniel worked out as well as we had hoped in game two. Mitchell got the nod, and went 4.1 innings, striking out 6 batters and allowing two earned runs. After a brief outing by Calvin Coker that lasted 0.1 innings, Davis Daniel took Auburn to the end of the road by also turning in 4.1 innings, striking out three batters and allowing one earned run.

Final Thoughts

Man, they needed this.

After struggling offensively over the last few SEC series, and needing some sort of revival of the pitching staff, the Tigers finally got back to the team that won 15-straight games to open the season. The sweep of Alabama evens

their record to 9-9 in SEC play.

The hot streak comes at a great time. Auburn carries a five-game winning streak into next week, where they get a shot at redemption against Samford, a team that defeated Auburn 12-3 on April 10 in Birmingham. The Tigers will then travel to Gainesville to face the defending National Champion Florida Gators. Auburn shocked the Gators by sweeping them in Auburn to open SEC play last season at Plainsman Park, so I’m sure Florida, who currently boasts the #1 ranking will be seeking revenge when they host Auburn, April 26-28th in a three-game SEC weekend series between the heavyweights.

While Auburn baseball has a hard road to hoe, if they can just carry all of that momentum they’ve recently created into next week and big things will happen down the stretch for the good guys.