Auburn, Ala.—Auburn will play its final non-conference baseball series this weekend as the Tigers take on Brown in three games at Plainsman Park looking to keep the momentum going from Tuesday’s win over Alabama in Montgomery.
Game times for the weekend series are 6 p.m. CST on Friday, 3 p.m. CST on Saturday and noon CDT on Sunday. The Sunday start is a time change with the contest being moved up one hour because of Brown's travel schedule.
Currently 9-3 on the season, Coach John Pawlowski’s Tigers are getting quality play from veterans and newcomers as they get closer to SEC play.
While freshman second baseman Jordan Ebert is getting plenty of early attention with a current 10-game hitting streak and a team-high .417 batting average, senior first baseman Garrett Cooper has quietly caught fire for the Tigers. With a seven-game hitting streak of his own, Cooper is 11-for-24 (.458) during that time, raising his overall batting average to .341.
Cooper has had three multi-hit games during the streak and has driven in eight RBI with three doubles, a triple and five walks. Leading the team in doubles with five and second with 13 RBI, Cooper says he has just remained patient following a rough start and it has paid off.
“I started the season off kind of slow,” Cooper says. “It’s always hard starting the season off slow when you’re a senior. You expect to do better compared to what you did last year. Gabe (Gross) and I talked about not trying to compare your average to what you were last year is always tough early in the season. I just tried to stay balanced and opened up my stance a little bit and luckily I’m seeing the ball well.”
While the offense has been solid for the most part, the strongest part of the team to this point has been the pitching staff and in particular junior college transfer Conner Kendrick. Pitching six hitless innings to get the win over Alabama on Tuesday, Kendrick has thrown 16 1/3 innings this season and has given up just four hits and no earned runs. Those numbers have Pawlowski thinking about giving him a start, but that will depend on how the first two days go for the Tigers.
“We’ve even looked at some other options,” Pawlowski says. “If he doesn’t pitch on Friday or doesn’t pitch in relief on Saturday then you’ve got a guy that has been a starter before so you never know what options present themselves. That’s the beauty of it. We just knew going into this season one of the areas we needed to bolster to give ourselves a chance was our bullpen. It’s pretty obvious what Kendrick did on Tuesday night that the can extend himself out or he can pitch in short stints.”
Getting the call on Friday night for the 6 p.m. start vs. a 1-3 Brown team is sophomore Daniel Koger (0-0, 2.08 ERA) with junior college transfer Michael O'Neal (3-0, 2.16) taking the hill on Saturday. They will face off against right-handers Anthony Galan (0-0, 3.00) and Dave St. Lawrence (0-0, 2.16) respectively.
For Sunday's game Auburn is listed as TBA with sophomore Rocky McCord (1-0, 4.63) a likely option for the Tigers while Brown will send Kevin Carlow (0-1, 5.14) out for the win.
With 13-1 Vanderbilt waiting next weekend as Auburn opens SEC play, getting three more wins would be huge for the Tigers to continue to build momentum. With one conference season under his belt Cooper knows how tough the road is going to be for this team and says that makes this weekend a must.
“This is probably the biggest weekend we’ve had so far,” Cooper says. “Next week we play Vanderbilt and they are number one or two in the country. This gives us a chance to see what we’re made of going into SEC play.”
Brown has already played an SEC team, dropping its season opener 4-3 at LSU.
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