Auburn, Ala.—It wasn’t the start the Auburn baseball Tigers were looking for as late-inning struggles and not enough clutch hitting led to dropping two of three games to Missouri over the weekend. However there were a few bright spots and one of those was the play of sophomore catcher Blake Austin.
Locked in a battle with senior Caleb Bowen all fall and spring for the starting job, Austin showed that he’s ready to take things over if his play the first three games is any indication. Hitting .556 (5-9), Austin had four doubles and two RBI to finish with a slugging percentage of 1.000 against Missouri. While he’s pleased with his play he said it doesn’t matter if the team doesn’t win.
“We had two games we could have won,” Austin said. “We just had a couple of plays we need to clean up, base running and on defense. We’ll keep swinging and having fun out there.
“It’s not about one guy,” he added. “Everybody has to play and do their part. I just happened to do mine well today. Hopefully it keeps going.”
In addition to his offensive production he was also very good behind the plate, particularly in slowing down the Missouri running game. The visiting Tigers set a school record with 94 stolen bases last season, but this past weekend they had just three steals on five attempts. Much of that was because of Austin. Throwing out two runners with another out by five feet with the umpire ruling the tag was missed, he should have had a third as well.
Coming off a season in which Tony Caldwell was one of the best in the country behind the plate, Coach John Pawlowski said he liked the start for Austin.
“Blake came up with some big hits for us,” Pawlowski said. “He threw the ball well too. He was able to shut down the running game and came up with some big hits. He’s going to get his opportunities to lead this staff. He did a good job.”
This week Austin and the Tigers will face Alcorn State in a pair of games at Plainsman Park. It may seem like two meaningless games from the outside looking in, but last seasons showed that every game is important at the end of the year. Because of that Austin said the team is focused on taking care of business against the Braves.
“We need a big win on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Austin said. “We need to rap them up so we can finish on a positive note for the week. These are big for us.”
Game times for the two-game series are set for 3 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Senior Jon Luke Jacobs will get the call on the mound for the Tigers in the first game with freshman Rocky McCord a possibility in game two.
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