Auburn Faces Bulldogs In Critical SEC Series

Auburn faces the Georgia Bulldogs in a huge series at Plainsman Park. The Tigers are looking to keep the momentum following a series win at Texas A&M.

Auburn, Ala.—Needing a big weekend to get back in the SEC race, the Auburn Tigers went on the road last weekend and won two of three against Texas A&M to improve to 3-9 in conference play. Just three games out of sixth place in the league nearing the halfway point of the league slate, Coach John Pawlowski says his club takes a lot of confidence into this weekend's series against the Georgia Bulldogs at Plainsman Park.

"I think it really helped us," Pawlowski says. "One is to know first and foremost that you can win in this league. The second thing is winning on the road. Going down there in that environment and winning I think it gave us a lot of confidence. I thought that did a lot of positive things for our club. Knowing also that we've played 12 games so far and still have 18 to go, there is a lot of maneuvering yet to go in the standings and where we can end up here in the second half of the season."

If Auburn (20-12) hopes to maneuver its way into the postseason talk it's almost a must-win situation again this weekend against the last place team in the SEC. Just 2-10 in league action and 12-22 overall, Georgia is a team that has some talent but has struggled in close games this season. The Bulldogs have lost six one-run games in 2013 and 10 more games by three runs or less.

Pawlowski says while this is a Georgia team capable of catching fire and winning some games, this weekend is once again about his team and the ability to play consistent baseball from start to finish.

"I don't really think the guys necessarily look so much at who we're playing," Pawlowski says. "I have really tried to emphasize this, it's how we're playing. LSU and Vanderbilt have 60 wins between the two of them and they're having tremendous years. Are they going to be the same club in the second half of the season as they are now? I don't know that.

"What we do know is that the consistency of our club, regardless of who we're playing we've got to do a better job of just playing baseball. We got off to a tough start and it made everybody sit back and re-evaluate the things we're doing, but the guys have stayed steadfast in their approach."

Georgia enters the weekend with two one-run wins in SEC play over Kentucky and Missouri, and only four wins in its last 14 games overall. Struggling to get anything going, the Bulldogs are hitting .277 as a team with 17 home runs and only 15 stolen bases on the season. While the offense hasn't done much, the pitching is where Coach David Perno's team is really in the tank. Currently 13th in team ERA at 4.68, Georgia leads only Tennessee in that category. While the overall pitching has been a disappointment, the Bulldogs have some quality arms in the starting rotation this weekend.

On Friday night Georgia will send Patrick Boling to the mound to take on Conner Kendrick for Auburn. Even though he's only 2-4 on the season, Boling has an ERA of 3.65 and has struck out 50 in 49 1/3 innings this season. Saturday's starter Sean McLaughlin has been even better, jumping out to a 4-2 record with an ERA of just 2.60. On Sunday Jared Walsh moves out of the bullpen for his second start. Currently 1-3, Walsh has a 2.95 ERA with three saves this year.

Auburn will counter that rotation with Kendrick (2-1, 1.98 ERA) on Friday, Michael O'Neal (6-2, 2.37 ERA) on Saturday and Will Kendall (0-3, 4.97 ERA) on Sunday. Game times for the weekend series are 6 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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