Slugging Tigers Making A Run In The West

Auburn's offense has been one of the best in the country for much of the 2010 season and that was the case this past weekend in a sweep over Mississippi State.

Auburn, Ala.--Following a weekend sweep of Mississippi State, the Auburn Tigers find themselves squarely in the hunt not only for a berth to the SEC Tournament in Hoover, but also the SEC Western Division title and a possible host site for the NCAA Tournament. At 33-15 overall and 15-9 in SEC play, the Tigers are tied with Ole Miss just one game behind division leading Arkansas with six conference games remaining in the regular season.

Auburn's offensive attack has keyed the successful run back into prominence for the Tigers this season as they are one of the top hitting teams in the country. Batting .350 as a team, Auburn has hit 93 home runs this season, good enough for second in team history behind last year's group.

That was helped by a strong weekend against Mississippi State as the Tigers hit .387 (43-111) as a team with 12 home runs in the series. Scoring 36 runs and adding nine doubles, Auburn's offense is hitting on all cylinders and senior catcher Ryan Jenkins says one of the reasons is because of balance.

"I think it takes the pressure off everybody because nobody really has to do too much," Jenkins says. "If you're having a bad day somebody is going to pick you up. I think that takes the pressure off everybody, especially the guys at the front of the order. They don't have to do a whole lot. I think it makes it easier for them to hit. Everybody has been doing that."

Taking two players out of the equation that have a total of just 10 at-bats, every other player on Auburn's roster is currently hitting above .300 for the year. Led by Hunter Morris' .400 average, 17 home runs, and 62 RBI, the Tigers have nine players with at least five home runs this season and 12 hitters with 20 or more RBI.

Brian Fletcher has 16 home runs and 60 RBI this season for the Tigers.

To put those numbers into perspective all you have to do is take a look back at the 1997 Auburn offensive numbers. That team played a total of 67 games, finishing in the College World Series in Omaha. Hitting .341 as a team that year, the Tigers had six different players with more than five home runs and nine with more than 20 RBI, and that's in 19 more games than the 2010 team has played to this point.

Two of the keys to Auburn's offensive success have been Jenkins and designated hitter Kevin Patterson. Over the weekend Jenkins was a scorching 7-12 with a home run, three doubles, and six RBI while Patterson added four hits in seven at-bats, including a pair of home runs. Auburn coach John Pawlowski says that both have added an extra dimension to the Auburn offense the last few weeks.

"I think the one thing that you look at with Kevin Patterson, the way he's handled left-handed pitching lately, we had a decision to make on Sunday whether or not to play him against the lefty," Pawlowski says. "He gave us some quality at-bats. He had another good day for us. Jenkins has really emerged. I think he's made a lot of progress offensively. Those two guys in the lineup have certainly boosted us tremendously."

SEC Standings Week 8

1. Florida 17-7 33-12
T1. South Carolina 17-7 36-11
3. Arkansas 16-8 37-11
4. Auburn 15-9 33-15
T4. Ole Miss 15-9 34-15
6. Vanderbilt 12-10 35-13
7. LSU 12-12 34-15
8. Tennessee 11-13 27-21
9. Alabama 10-14 29-19

This week's schedule

Tennessee at Auburn
LSU at Kentucky
Vanderbilt at Miss. State
Ole Miss at Alabama
South Carolina at Arkansas
Georgia at Florida

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