Tigers Looking To Tame Bears

Sunny Golloway

Auburn (6-6) takes on Mercer (12-2) in a three-game baseball series this weekend at Plainsman Park.

Auburn, Ala.--Following their first-ever loss to Alabama in the Max Capital City Classic on Wednesday night, the Auburn Tigers (6-6) will look to get back on track this weekend in the final tune-up series before SEC play begins when Sunny Golloway's team squares off against the Mercer Bears at Plainsman Park.

Entering the weekend with a record of 12-2, Mercer's only two losses came on the road at Belmont last weekend. A powerful offensive team, the Bears are led by center fielder Sasha Lagarde. Hitting .364 Lagarde has six home runs and 19 RBI this season out of the cleanup spot. In front of him first baseman Nick Backlund lead the team with a .383 average and has added eight home runs.

On the mound Mercer is expected to go with senior Brandon Barker (2-0, 3.77 ERA) and juniors Grant Papelian (1-0, 3.07) and Eric Nyquist (3-0, 3.57) in the rotation. Out of the bullpen junior Ben Lumsden has been a force for the Bears, already with five saves in 10 appearances.

Auburn will counter with Dillon Ortman on Friday night and talented freshman Keegan Thompson on Saturday. With a record of 2-1 and an ERA of 2.55, Ortman has been solid in his role on Friday nights. Dominating so far this season, Thompson is 2-0 with a miniscule ERA of 0.39. Listed as to be announced on Sunday, Auburn will likely go with senior Michael O'Neal. He is currently 0-2 with an ERA of 5.79.

Auburn is hitting .257 as a team with senior Ryan Tella leading the way at .382. Damek Tomscha (.345) and Anfernee Grier (.318) are the only other regulars hitting over .300 for the Tigers at the moment as they try to get some momentum heading into the SEC opener next weekend against Texas A&M.

Damek Tomscha

Trying to settle on a lineup and a batting order, Golloway said it has taken time to get things going in the right direction, but he feels good as long as they continue to move forward.

"I'm not so concerned about the wins and losses when I look at our development," the coach said. "The development of having to move guys around has been the issue. We didn't forsee having to move so many guys around. We don't have one infielder in the position we had them in the fall, other than Keegan Thompson at first base. We have moved guys around a lot and we've got some young guys playing and they are going to make some mistakes because they are young. The development needs to continue."

Still pushing his team to strive for the College World Series, Golloway said his goals haven't changed for this club. While it's going to be more difficult, he added that his believe hasn't wavered for the 2014 Tigers.

"I like where we are at," Golloway said. "If we can learn from our mistakes then we've got a chance to be very good. Are we going to continue down a path where it makes it really hard to host a regional, that remains to be seen. We've got to right the ship pretty quick if we're going to do that, but I see this team playing in the NCAA Tournament and I see it fighting it's tail off to get to Omaha."

Game times for the weekend series are 6 p.m. CST on Friday, 3 p.m. CST on Saturday and 1 p.m CDT on Sunday.

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