Auburn, Ala.—While his addition hasn’t shown up as much offensively as his fellow California junior college newcomer Ryan Tella, Auburn first baseman Garrett Cooper has been a big reason why the Tigers are off to a 2-1 start in SEC play and 13-8 overall this season.
Hitting .302 this season with a home run and 13 RBI, Cooper has an on-base percentage of .444 and has been clutch for the Tigers in 2012. Perhaps his biggest addition has been defensively as the 6-6 junior is fielding at a clip of .994 with just one error on the year.
Adjusting well to life in the SEC, Cooper said that while it’s a tough transition from junior college to the best baseball league in the land and he feels like he’s doing well.
“The transition is kind of what I expected coming out here,” Cooper tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. “It’s tough pitching. The first week in the SEC the first guy was 95 (MPH). It’s not as big of a transition as I thought coming from juco, I’m just trying to play well every day. I’m hitting about .300 and we’re winning games. We’re on a little streak and hopefully we can take care of LSU this weekend.”
One of the biggest reasons for Auburn’s current streak of seven wins in nine games has been the performance of the pitching staff. Getting quality starts has been important for the team and Cooper said because of that it has made it even more important to get the job done in the field. Fortunately for Auburn Cooper has been on the job at first base.
Picking off errant throws left and right and scooping balls out of the dirt, Cooper has saved countless possible errors already this season and he said that’s just part of his job.
“That’s probably one of my biggest strengths,” Cooper said. “I always try to pick the guys up like Yak (Dan Glevenyak) and Alvord (Zach Alvord) when they throw balls in the dirt. That’s what I’m there for. Picking a ball is a big game changer. Once you do that it carries over to the offense.”
It’s not like Cooper hasn’t done anything offensively as the junior came up with one of the biggest hits of the season last Sunday to propel the Tigers over Ole Miss and win the series. Trailing by a run in the ninth inning, Auburn got consecutive doubles from Tella and Cullen Wacker to tie the game and bring Cooper to the plate. Facing a powerful right-handed closer, Cooper singled back through the box to drive home Wacker with the game winning run. He said it’s something he’ll never forget.
“That was probably the best game I’ve been a part of,” Cooper said. “Down to two strikes and you have Tella’s double and then Wacker was on first the whole game. I was given the chance to win the ballgame and I just tried to put the ball in play and singled up the middle. It was probably one of the better feelings I’ve had in my baseball career.
“Taking two of three on the road against a team like Ole Miss who is ranked in the Top 15 is huge,” he added. “It’s huge for our confidence. It’s huge going into this weekend against LSU, another Top 10 team.”
Cooper and the Tigers will have a chance to make more noise this weekend as they face the #8 LSU Tigers in a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times for the series are 6 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
“I can’t wait,” Cooper said. “It’s our SEC home opener. Friday night is what it’s all about. I imagine this place is going to be pretty packed. It’s what I’m here for, to play on Friday nights against SEC teams. LSU is a big-time team and it’s going to be fun to watch, fun to play.”
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