April 20, 2011
Sitting one game out of first place in the SEC West at the halfway point of the conference schedule, the Auburn baseball team will play host to one of the three teams currently occupying the top spot in Ole Miss for a three-game series beginning Thursday at 6:30pm at Plainsman Park. The game is part of the ESPNU Thursday Night SEC Baseball Game of the Week and is the only SEC game being played on Thursday this week.
Auburn (20-16, 7-8) has won two straight SEC series to sit behind Ole Miss (23-15, 8-7 SEC), Alabama and Arkansas as it tries to defend its division title from a season ago. Auburn currently owns the third-best team batting average in the league with a .300 mark, led by infielder Casey McElroy, who leads the team in average (.360), hits (54), runs (32), RBIs (36) and home runs (six) and is second in doubles (12).
Thursday's game is the first of two for Auburn on the ESPN family of networks this season and its second in the last two seasons but it marks the first time ESPN has come to Plainsman Park since 1986.
Following Thursday's game the two teams will get back on the field at 6pm on Friday and noon on Saturday, with Saturday's game airing live on CSS.
Auburn will start Jr. RHP Derek Varnadore (4-1, 3.75 ERA) on Thursday and Jr. LHP Cory Luckie 1-1, 4.60) on Saturday but has not determined its Friday starter yet.
Ole Miss will start Jr. LHP Matt Crouse (6-2, 2.79) on Thursday, Jr. RHP David Goforth (2-5, 4.27) on Friday and Jr. LHP Austin Wright (4-3, 3.99) on Saturday.
Thursday is All Auburn, All Orange and fans are encouraged to wear orange. There will also be a drawstring backpack giveaway to the first 500 fans from Golden Flake.
Friday's game will have post-game fireworks presented by Regions Bank and the first 500 fans will receive a mini baseball bat from Cook's Pest Control.
Follow Auburn baseball on twitter at twitter.com/AUTigerBaseball.
Complete Release in PDF Format
AUBURN TIGERS (20-16, 7-8 SEC)
OLE MISS REBELS (23-15, 8-7 SEC)
WEEKEND PITCHING ROTATIONS
Thursday, April 21 (auburntigers.com audio / ESPNU / WKKR 97.7 FM)
Ole Miss at Auburn 6:30PM Plainsman Park
Jr. LHP Matt Crouse (6-2, 2.79) vs. Jr. RHP Derek Varnadore (4-1, 3.75)
Friday, April 22 (auburntigers.com audio & video / WKKR 97.7 FM)
Ole Miss at Auburn 6PM Plainsman Park
Jr. RHP David Goforth (2-5, 4.37) vs. TBA
Saturday, April 23 (auburntigers.com audio / CSS / WKKR 97.7 FM)
Ole Miss at Auburn 12PM Plainsman Park
Jr. LHP Austin Wright (4-3, 3.99) vs. Jr. LHP Cory Luckie (1-1, 4.60)
BACK ON TRACK IN THE SEC
After experiencing an six-game slump in which the team was swept in consecutive SEC series by Mississippi State and No. 1 Vanderbilt, Auburn turned it around over the last two weekends, winning five of six against Kentucky and LSU ... During that span Auburn hit .315 as a team, with both Casey McElroy (.462) and Tony Caldwell (.423) hitting over .400 ... On the mound the team had a 4.42 ERA and a .241 opponent batting average ... In three appearances, Ethan Wallen had two wins and a save.
ONE GAME OUT, HALFWAY HOME
At the halfway point of the SEC season, Auburn (7-8 SEC) finds itself one game out of first in the bunched up SEC West behind Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss (8-7) ... Over the second half of the season, Ole Miss' five opponents have a .587 winning percentage, Arkansas' has a .560, Auburn's has a .547 and Alabama's has a .533 ... Auburn will play both Ole Miss and Alabama in the second half and already owns the tie-breaker over Arkansas.
ESPN RETURNS TO THE PLAINS FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 1986
Thursday night's game on ESPNU marks Auburn's second appearance on the ESPN family of networks in the last two seasons but it will be the first time Auburn has been featured on ESPN since April 14, 1986, when Auburn defeated Kentucky, 5-4 ... Auburn baseball has appeared on ESPN five times, ESPN2 twice and ESNPU once ... Auburn will be on ESPN again next Sunday at South Carolina.
Auburn has turned into a late-inning team over the last two SEC weekends, outscoring Kentucky and LSU 38-11 from innings six through nine and going 5-1 in the process ... In those six games, Auburn hit .382 (42-for-110) from the sixth inning on with six doubles and five home runs while also drawing 13 walks and getting hit by a pitch six times (.473 OBP).
COMPARING `11 TO `10
Five series into the 2011 SEC season, Auburn (7-8) stands one game back of where it was last year (8-7) at the same point ... Last year's team won each of its final five series, starting with a 2-1 series win over Kentucky to move to 10-8 ... Last year the team was hitting .321 with an on base percentage of .396, having scored 122 runs while the pitching staff had a 5.02 ERA (SEC games only) ... This year the team is hitting .285 with a .368 on base percentage with 94 runs scored while the pitching staff has a 5.99 ERA.
A Johnny Bench Award Candidate as the nation's top catcher for the third time in his career, Tony Caldwell has thrown out 18 of 35 attempted base stealers (51 percent) and has picked a man off first while defensively he has only been charged two passed balls while starting 30 games behind the plate ... The 18 runners he has thrown out leads the SEC and is tied for second in the country with Alexander Black of Coppin State and Frank Esposito of Seton Hall ... Kyle Mahoney of High Point has thrown out 20 to lead the nation ... However, Caldwell's percentage of runners thrown out is the best of anyone on the Bench Award list.
LAST TIME OUT
Auburn was held to one run on seven hits in a 7-1 loss to South Alabama on Tuesday night ... Kevin Patterson (3-for-4) and Cullen Wacker (2-for-4) combined for five of the seven hits with Patterson driving in the lone run of the game ... Andrew Morris was the only one of five Auburn pitchers not to allow a run during his time on the mound as he threw three shutout innings.
Auburn closes out its six-game homestand with games against Samford and Texas Southern ... The game with Samford is the first in the annual home-and-home series (game two is May 10 in Birmingham) while the game with Texas Southern is a first for the two teams.
SERIES-OPENING STARTING PITCHERS
With Zach Blatt getting the starting nod last Friday at LSU, he became the fourth different Friday night starter for Auburn, following Cory Luckie (four Friday starts), Andrew Morris (two) and Slade Smith (two) ... Those four have a combined 6.64 ERA in 42 innings on Friday nights, allowing 32 runs (31 earned) on 62 hits and 12 walks, striking out 30 as Auburn has gone 4-5 on Fridays ... In that same time period the bullpen has a 5.04 ERA in 44 2/3 innings, allowing 32 runs (25 earned) on 53 hits and 16 walks, striking out 40.