Auburn Hosts LSU for Final Regular Season Series

May 17, 2018 By Taylor Jones

Tanner Burns (7) Photo: Wade Rackley /Auburn Athletics

Auburn Baseball (35-18, 13-14 SEC) has already clinched a spot in next week’s SEC Tournament in Hoover but would like to end the regular season on a high note at Plainsman Park by improving their seeding after dropping their last four games all on the road. The Tigers will be afforded that opportunity as they host their final regular season SEC three-game series  versus LSU (32-21, 14-13 SEC), who are one spot ahead of Auburn in the SEC West standings

Ah, at last, home sweet home.

The last four games away from Plainsman Park were not kind to Auburn as the Tigers dropped all four contests, three of them coming by four runs or more. Last weekend’s series at Ole Miss put a damper on the Tigers, who had won four games in a row including a sweep over Vanderbilt. The current four-game losing streak preceded by a four-game winning streak felt like the equivalent of taking ten steps forward and then ten steps back. But such is life in the Southeastern Conference.

However, there’s good news on the horizon — Auburn is 27-5 at Plainsman Park, and has won seven straight at home since April 15. Home-field advantage has also been kind to Tiger pitching ace Casey Mize, who is 8-0 in games on the plains this season. And if that’s not enough good news, LSU is dreaded 3-12 on the road this season and has not won a conference series away from “The Box,” including series losses at Ole Miss, South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt.

This weekend would be a great opportunity to bounce back and improve seeding in the SEC Tournament that will be held next week at the Hoover Met.

More shakeups coming to the weekend rotation

Head Coach Butch Thompson said following the series against Vanderbilt, he would shake up the pitching rotation due to the final two series being held Thursday-Saturday, instead of the traditional Friday-Sunday model. One thing for certain was that Casey Mize would get seven days of rest regardless. Mize will still pitch on Friday night, but Thursday’s starter has changed.

While Auburn opened up with Davis Daniel on the mound for the first game of the Ole Miss series last weekend in Oxford, Coach Thompson has elected to go with youth to begin the LSU series as freshman Tanner Burns takes over opening game pitching duties. Burns will start off the series on Thursday while Casey Mize will lead the Tigers from the mound on Friday. Auburn’s starting pitcher for Saturday, however, is still up in the air.

For LSU, they find themselves in a similar situation. The Bayou Bengals will start Zach Hess on Thursday, Ma’Khall Hilliard will get the nod on Friday, and like Auburn, LSU’s Saturday starter will be determined later in the series. Hess is 6-4 with a 4.24 ERA and 91 strikeouts. He struck out six in five innings against Alabama last weekend, not picking up a decision. Hilliard did not have as much success against the Tide as Hess did, as he allowed five runs on four hits in just three innings of work in last Saturday’s 6-1 loss to Alabama. In Saturday’s win, Nick Bush got the start and went six complete innings. Bush would be a name that I would keep an eye on for Saturday’s finale.

Venter and Estes continue to swing hot bats

Brendan Venter and Jay Estes enter the LSU series with pretty impressive streaks. Venter has recorded a hit in 10 straight games, Estes has reached base via a hit in 8 games. Both players have 17 hits in their current streaks. Those two, along with Edouard Julien, should lead the offense to a great weekend against LSU. The last four games have seen opponents put up a 17-run differential (Auburn outscored 32-15), so the offense needs to step up in a big way against the Bayou Bengals.

LSU is not their typical power-hitting squad this season with 41 home runs total. Daniel Cabrera and Beau Jordan lead in long balls with 8 each. Antoine Duplantis leads in average with .340 while Cabrera leads in RBI with 46.

Seniors Curtain Call

With this being the final series of the regular season, Auburn’s eight seniors will be honored prior to Friday night’s game with LSU. Dylan Ingram, Josh Anthony, Andrew Mitchell, Luke Jarvis, Jay Estes, Calvin Coker, Bowen McGuffin, and Corey Herndon will be recognized on Friday night.

How to watch, How to Listen

This series will provide two great opportunities for Auburn baseball fans who can not make it to Plainsman Park for the LSU series. Thursday’s game will be televised by ESPNU at 6 P.M. while the SEC Network will feature the broadcast of game 2 on Friday at 6 P.M. Tom Hart and Todd Walker will be on the call for Thursday and Friday’s game. Saturday’s game will be live-streamed on SEC Network+ with Andy Burcham and Chris Morrison on the call. Saturday’s first pitch is scheduled for 1 P.M.

The Auburn Sports Network will have radio coverage for all three games. Tune into your local affiliate, or the TuneIn Radio app for coverage beginning 15 minutes prior to first pitch.