Auburn, Ala.—The strength of the Auburn baseball team in 2012 has been its starting pitching, but that has taken a hit this week as sophomore Will Kendall is out for the remainder of the season after injuring his arm against Alabama last weekend. Coach John Pawlowski announced on Thursday that Kendall will have season-ending surgery and face a long road of recovery to get back on the mound for the Tigers.
Auburn must move forward without Kendall this weekend against a veteran Vanderbilt lineup and a Commodore team that has faced one of the toughest schedules in the country. Pawlowski said it’s unfortunate that Kendall (4-0, 1.88 ERA) won’t be available the rest of the year, but the Tigers have to respond by picking up the slack.
That job will go to senior Jon Luke Jacobs. A midweek starter this year with a record of 4-0 and an ERA of 2.53, Jacobs has been a weekend starter and a reliever in his career with the Tigers and Pawlowski said having a veteran to fall back on is huge. Currently 18-14 overall and 6-6 in SEC play, Auburn needs something positive to happen on the road and Pawlowski said he’s confident Jacobs can deliver on Saturday.
“When somebody is unavailable somebody else on your staff has to step in,” Pawlowski said. “He’s been there and he’s done that. He’s pitched on the weekend, he’s started in the midweek games, he’s started, he’s relieved, he’s done everything. He has been throwing the ball extremely well too. He wants to be out there. He brings a calmness to the team knowing that we’ve got a guy toeing it up on Saturday that has been there and done that.”
Varnadore (1-4, 4.93) will get the call on Friday night against RHP T.J Pecoraro (0-0, 2.45) for Vanderbilt while Jacobs will face off against RHP Tyler Beede (1-3, 4.79) on Saturday. Koger (2-2, 2.03) will try to win the Sunday game as he goes up against LHP Kevin Kiomek (2-6, 5.49) in the series finale.
Auburn’s pitching staff will face a veteran Vanderbilt lineup, but one that is struggling this season with a .271 team average. Anthony Gomez leads the way for the Commodores, hitting .356 with a team-high 30 RBI. The power comes from Mike Yastrzemski with three home runs and a .305 average, but Connor Harrell (.204, 2 HR) is a veteran that is capable of doing some damage as well. As a team Vanderbilt has just 12 home runs, but has 36 stolen bases out of a lineup that has been around the block.
“They had quite a few guys drafted last year,” Pawlowski said. “Some of the guys in the rotation are guys that were in the bullpen last year or real high draft picks. Their lineup seems to be full of a lot of familiar names. I looked at their schedule and out schedule and it was a challenging preseason schedule for them, kind of like what we presented ourselves with. They are a very good team.”
The Tigers will counter with a team hitting .306 with 16 home runs led by center fielder Ryan Tella. The sophomore is batting .395, which is third in the SEC. He’s second in on-base percentage (.495), fourth in hits (49), fifth in steals (8), eighth in walks (21) and ninth in total bases (67).
Tella has been a constant in the Auburn lineup, hitting third, but there have been some changes around him in the last week. The most notable is the move of Dan Glevenyak to the leadoff spot. Hitting in that role in junior college, Glevenyak looks comfortable there and had two hits in the Tuesday night win over Samford. Pawlowski said it’s something that will likely continue this weekend.
“I think one of the things is that he just knows what we’re trying to do,” Pawlowski said. “He’s a good runner. He handles the short game well. He can bunt and move guys over and he can also bunt for base hits. One of the things I felt like we really struggled with was our ability to get leadoff guys on and to get some early momentum. He’s a guy that I think can help us at the top of the order to get one more at-bat or one more swing. I like what he did. I thought he did a really good job for us.”
Game times for the weekend series at Vanderbilt are scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. Friday night’s game can be seen on CSS.
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