Auburn, Ala.—Just three weekends into the 2013 SEC baseball season the Auburn Tigers stood at just 1-8 in league play after being swept by both Vanderbilt and LSU and losing a home series to rival Alabama.
Now heading into the SEC Tournament this week, Coach John Pawlowski’s team is one of the hottest in the league after winning its last three series, including two wins over 11th-ranked Arkansas to finish the year regular season.
Currently 33-22 overall and 13-17 in SEC games, Auburn will be the No. 10 seed for the conference tournament in Hoover and will play rival Alabama in the first round on Tuesday. It will be the fifth meeting between the two schools and without question the biggest meeting of the year.
Ranked 32nd in the country in RPI following the wins over Arkansas, Auburn is on the bubble for a NCAA Tournament bid and another win over Alabama Tuesday would go a long way towards securing a berth in a regional. Senior Mitchell Self notes that having the opportunity to play Alabama one more time is exciting for this team.
“Alabama is our arch rival so it should be a lot of fun,” Self says. “We didn’t have a good series against them last time, but we played them well at the Capitol City Classic. Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going that we’ve got now and take it into the Alabama game and keep the sticks going.”
Since losing a series to Alabama in week three, Auburn is 12-9 in SEC play. That includes winning eight wins in the last 11 games overall and six of eight in league play. Pawlowski contends the strong finish is something that should put his team into the postseason.
“I haven’t really thought about it, but I do feel like that when you look at how a team finishes we won our last three conference series against three quality opponents,” Pawlowski says. “We didn’t start off good, but we certainly finished in the conference pretty well. I think we put ourselves in a very good position, but we’ve got more work to do.
“I told our group that I wouldn’t wish that on anybody,” he adds of the slow start. “You start out 0-7 and there is nowhere to go but up. These guys stayed with it to their credit. They are blue collar, tough, hard-nosed kids. To come back from where we were, that’s a tribute to this group.”
Before Auburn can worry about the NCAA Tournament the Tigers must first take care of business against Alabama. It’s a game that carries a lot of weight for both Tigers and Crimson Tide players and supporters anytime of the year, but on Tuesday it will be a can’t miss contest. Austin says for Auburn it’s a chance to show what they’re made of once again.
“I can’t wait,” Austin says. “Can’t wait. They came on our field and embarrassed us. I can’t wait.”
Blake Austin has been a key contributor behind the plate for the Tigers
Player of the Week: Playing in place of an injured Damek Tomscha at third base, Self was 5-9 on the weekend, scored three runs and played very good defense on the hot corner for the Tigers.
Pitcher of the Week: Earning his fifth win of the season, Conner Kendrick pitched seven and one/third scoreless innings on Thursday. The junior tied a season-high with eight strikeouts and walked just one.
SEC Tournament Seeding
#1 Vanderbilt (.897)
#2 LSU (.767)
#3 Arkansas (.621)
#4 South Carolina (.586)
#5 Mississippi State (.533)
#6 Ole Miss (.500)
#7 Alabama (.483)
#8 Florida (.467)
#9 Texas A&M (.448)
#10 Auburn (.433)
#11 Kentucky (.367)
#12 Missouri (.333)
Tuesday, May 21 (All times CDT)
Game 1 9:30 a.m. #6 Ole Miss vs. #11 Kentucky [FSN]
Game 2 TBD #7 Alabama vs. #10 Auburn [FSN]
Game 3 4:30 p.m. #8 Florida vs. #9 Texas A&M [CSS]
Game 4 TBD #5 Mississippi State vs. #12 Missouri [CSS]
Wednesday, May 22
Game 5 9:30 a.m. #3 Arkansas vs. Winner Game 1 [CSS]
Game 6 TBD #2 LSU vs. Winner Game 2 [CSS]
Game 7 4:30 p.m. #1 Vanderbilt vs. Winner Game 3 [CSS]
Game 8 TBD #4 South Carolina vs. Winner Game 4 [CSS]
Thursday, May 23
Game 9 9:30 a.m. Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6 [SPSO]
Game 10 TBD Loser Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8 [SPSO]
Game 11 4:30 p.m. Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6 [SPSO]
Game 12 TBD Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8 [SPSO]
Friday, May 24
Game 13 3:00 p.m. Winner Game 9 vs. Loser Game 11 [CSS]
Game 14 TBD Winner Game 10 vs. Loser 12 [CSS]
Saturday, May 25
Game 15 Noon Winner Game 13 vs. Winner Game 11 [ESPNEWS]
Game 16 TBD Winner Game 14 vs. Winner Game 12 [ESPNEWS]
Sunday, May 26
Game 17 3:30 p.m. Winner Game 15 vs. Winner Game 16 [ESPN2]
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