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'It's been amazing' - Auburn hitters lead SEC
March 25, 2016

By Jeff Shearer

Auburn's first two hitters, Anfernee Grier and Joshua Palacios, are not merely setting the table.

They're preparing the entrée, serving the meal and even doing the dishes.

The junior outfielders lead the Southeastern Conference in hitting.

Grier, Auburn's leadoff man, is batting. 432, second in the SEC.

Palacios, second in the order, is one point better at .433.

"I've got to compete against him right now," Grier said. "He's making me step up my game. It's fun. We go out and we just have a good time playing the game, and just deal with the results at the end of the day."

"That drives us a lot, because it's really good, friendly competition," Palacios said. "He goes up there and gets a hit. I feel like I've got to go up there and do something better. Get a hit to move him over."

Grier leads the SEC in runs scored (34). Palacios is sixth (26).

Grier also leads the league in on-base-percentage (.537) and is second in slugging percentage (.716).

Palacios is fourth in OBP (.514).

A catcher's nightmare, Grier is fourth in the SEC in stolen bases (12). Palacios ranks fifth (11).

This season, Grier has added power to his resume.

After hitting two home runs in his first two seasons at Auburn (403 at-bats), Grier has smashed a half-dozen homers in just 88 at-bats, tied for the SEC lead with teammate Niko Buentello and two others.

Anfernee Grier has six home runs in 2016
Anfernee Grier has six home runs in 2016

"Putting together good at-bats, and trying to put a good swing on the ball, and I guess it's carrying out for me, so I'll take it," said Grier, who admits to being a little surprised by his power surge.

Watching from the on-deck circle, Palacios has the best view in the ballpark.

"He can hit pretty much any pitch," Palacios said, "He can hit a curve well, he can hit a fast well. He hits outside the outside pitch. He hits the inside pitch. So that, I feel, makes it really difficult for the other team to pitch to him. It actually makes me excited when I get up there, when I see what he's doing. And I'm like, `Ah, man, I've got to go get after it.'"

Palacios has been getting after it since his arrival from Brooklyn, NY, via San Jacinto Junior College in Pasadena, Texas, near Houston.

He's hitting a scorching .622 in Auburn's past nine games.

"This little run by Palacios is just about as good as I've seen," Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. "I think he's really gained the attention of our league, of professional baseball, the Auburn people. I just think he's really captured college baseball the last week, week and a half with the way he's swung the bat."

Grier says he knew his teammate would be special when Palacios hit back-to-back home runs in the fall.

"I think it's just making the adjustment coming from juco to here, getting comfortable with everything, realizing it's the same game," Grier said. "It's still baseball. Just doing what he does best. It's going pretty good so far."

Palacios is out to prove you don't have to grow up in the South or in California to be elite.

"I feel it's the hunger we have in New York City," Palacios said. "The guys in New York City, we know that we're not top in the nation. We come from terrible fields, there's no grass in the infields. We come from pretty much the worst of the worst playing fields.

"When you're there, and you're seeing that every day. And you see what these other guys get to play on, it makes you hungry and want to push to the next level," he said. "Push yourself harder and prove to yourself that you belong at these levels, like the SEC and pro baseball."

Grier and Palacios have combined to score 60 runs. The next two hitters in Auburn's lineup, Jordan Ebert and Buentello, have driven in 53.

"It's been amazing," Thompson said. "It's still so early, but at times, this little stretch here has been as good of offense as I can remember being a part of as an assistant coach as anything in my time, 15th year in the SEC. That's as good of a 1-2-3-4 punch, I would extend it to four hitters, as I've seen."

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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