Auburn, Ala.—For the fourth time in six days the Auburn Tigers (30-26) will take on the Florida Gators (40-16) on the baseball diamond as Coach John Pawlowski’s team looks to even the score in the first round of the SEC Baseball Tournament on Tuesday in Hoover.
After losing the first two games of the three-game series on Thursday and Friday, Auburn responded with a dramatic 5-4 win on Saturday to salvage a game in the series and get some positive momentum heading into the postseason. Winning without injured players Cullen Wacker (knee), Dan Glevenyak (back), Garrett Cooper (back), Jay Gonzalez (hand), and Zach Blatt (arm), the Tigers limp into the postseason with some question marks physically as they try to make a run in the tournament to secure a spot in a NCAA Regional.
“I have never been in this situation before,” Pawlowski said. “We’re getting ready to go to the tournament and we’re not sure what our 27-man roster is. It’s the same thing with Saturday’s game. We had to do things Saturday against Florida. In the fall during scrimmages we do some stuff just so we can have a competitive game. We had to go into that mode on Saturday. Fortunately for us we’ve given Creede (Creede Simpson) some fly balls in the outfield so we put him out there and obviously he did a great job.”
While there’s a good chance all will make the trip to Hoover in case they can help later in the week should the Tigers advance, Tuesday’s game could still be a question mark as Gonzalez is going to be a game-time decision because of a sprained right hand. The same is true of Glevenyak because of a tight back. With that in mind Pawlowski said having players such as Simpson and Justin Bryant is huge because they can play multiple positions.
“One of the things that Coach (Scott) Foxhall and Coach (Link) Jarrett do is recruit athletes and we’re able to put them in multiple positions,” Pawlowski said. “Justin Bryant is a prime example as well as Creede Simpson. Creede was a shortstop in high school, played second base in the Cape Cod League, and played outfield for us. When you move a guy like that it’s not a culture shock so to speak. It’s so athletic it allows us in case of an emergency to put somebody out there.”
Currently 56th in the RPI according to Warren Nolan, Auburn will take on the #2 RPI team in Florida with a chance to add another win to its total and more substance to the schedule. The Tigers will send senior Jon Luke Jacobs (5-3, 3.75 ERA) to the mound hoping the second time is the charm against Florida. On Thursday he took the loss after allowing five earned runs on just 31 pitches against the powerful Gators’ offense. He will face off against RHP Jonathan Crawford (4-2, 3.67) for Florida.
Auburn will face Florida on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., marking just the eighth all-time meeting between the two programs at the SEC Tournament. Florida leads 5-2 in SEC Tournament meetings between the two teams with the last meeting between coming in the First Round in 2000, a Florida win. Auburn’s last win over Florida at the SEC Tournament was in the Second Round in 1998.
With a win on Tuesday Auburn would face #2 seed South Carolina in the night game on Wednesday. A loss would put the Tigers in the losers bracket against either Vanderbilt or Georgia at 4:30 on Wednesday.
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