March 26, 2014
Auburn coach Sunny Golloway says he likes his team's confidence going into Missouri series (Zach Bland photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn's baseball team has climbed into the national rankings. It has won five consecutive series dating back to last season, the most in the Southeastern Conference, and 12 of its last 14 games. It will try tonight to keep it going on national television.
Missouri (11-12 overall and 1-5 in the SEC) visits Plainsman Park tonight for the first game of a three-game series against the No. 21 Tigers (18-8 and 4-2). First pitch is set for 6:30 on ESPNU.
For first-year coach Sunny Golloway's Tigers, who have not been to postseason play since 2010, confidence grows with each victory. They are tied with Mississippi State and Ole Miss for first place in the West Division.
"Maybe it's good for them to stick their chests out, because they have been beat down quite a bit," Golloway said. "I kind of like the fact that they're playing with confidence, but they still have a chip on their shoulder. That's good. I'm going to let it roll and see what happens."
Hot-hitting senior centerfielder Ryan Tella says keeping the momentum is crucial as the Tigers head toward the meat of their SEC schedule.
"It's huge," Tella said. "We've had two SEC wins. They weren't sweeps, but we'll take it. Taking the momentum from last weekend into Missouri for Thursday, Friday, Saturday is going to be huge for us."
As Auburn has gained momentum as a team, so has Tella gained momentum at the plate. He's hitting .365 with three home runs, one in each of the past two games.
"I feel pretty good," Tella said. "I have just been working with the coaches. I have to keep after it. We have been working with each other and helping each other out."
Senior Dillon Ortman (5-1, 1.96 ERA) will go for his third SEC win in tonight's game. Freshman Keegan Thompson (5-0, 0.78 ERA) will start Friday. Golloway said senior left-hander Michael O'Neal (1-2, 3.62) will return to the starting rotation Saturday.
Damek Tomscha leads the Tigers in hitting with a .378 average, in home runs with five and in RBI with 19. Jordan Ebert and Tella are next at .365. Since returning from a back injury, sophomore right fielder Sam Gillikin is hitting .429 in six games.
Missouri was swept at Ole Miss last weekend and lost two of three to Tennessee the previous week.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: