May 5, 2014
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn’s baseball team faces a difficult situation after Mississippi State completed a series sweep with a 12-1 romp at Plainsman Park on Sunday. It was, by any account, one of the worst weekends in recent Auburn baseball history.
When it was over, Auburn was in 13th place in the overall Southeastern Conference standings. The top 12 advance to the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover. How a team that returned five of the top seven hitters from a team that led the SEC in hitting last season could be so helpless at the plate is hard to fathom.
But it’s not over. It’s not close to over if the Tigers can pull themselves together and give a big effort in the final two regular-season series at Kentucky and at home against LSU.
There’s nothing pretty about records of 25-23 overall and 9-15 in the SEC. But here’s the thing: Auburn is a half game behind Georgia, one game behind Kentucky and Tennessee and two behind Arkansas in the overall SEC standings. It has perhaps the strongest pair of starting pitchers in the league in Dillon Ortman and Keegan Thompson.
The Tigers probably need five wins to get into an NCAA regional. Can they win five out of six from Kentucky and LSU? It’s not likely, but it’s possible. Can they make a run in the SEC Tournament, if they get there? Those pitchers make it possible.
I’m not here to say Auburn is on the verge of making an NCAA regional. I’m not even here to say they will make it to Hoover. But it’s a fact that this team has enough firepower and enough pitching to put together a strong finish and make it interesting.
There was no indication this weekend that will happen, but there was every indication the previous weekend, when Auburn two of three at Arkansas, that it could happen.
It’s been a rough ride for first-year coach Sunny Golloway and his players, who expected so much more. Even Golloway will tell you that this team is too talented to be 9-15 in the SEC. Other SEC coaches will tell you that, too.
Debating why or how that has happened serves no purpose with games still to be played. Golloway and his staff have to figure out what they need to do going forward to inject some energy into a reeling team. And Auburn players have to figure out how to put the misery of the weekend behind them and move on.
It’s not over. Not yet.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: