May 18, 2011
The Auburn baseball team will close out the regular season this week at Tennessee, facing the Volunteers in a Thursday, Friday, Saturday series at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Game times for the series are 5pm CT on both Thursday and Friday and 1pm on Saturday.
Auburn (28-25, 13-14 SEC) will employ the same rotation it has used over the last few weekends, starting Jr. RHP Jon Luke Jacobs (1-3, 3.44) on Thursday and Jr. RHP Derek Varnadore (5-2, 3.60) on Friday while waiting to determine its Saturday starter.
Tennessee (23-28, 5-22 SEC) will start Jr. LHP Steven Gruver (4-7, 4.08) on Thursday and So. RHP Nick Blount (1-4, 5.52) on Friday.
Auburn sits in a four-way tie for first in the SEC West heading into the final weekend. In order to clinch a spot in next week's SEC Tournament, Auburn needs to win just once in Knoxville. Two wins over the weekend will also insure Auburn of an above .500 record post-SEC Tournament, which is the requirement for an at-large selection to the NCAA Tournament.
Auburn is also attempting to win a second straight SEC division crown after claiming the West title last season. The last time Auburn has won back-to-back division titles was in 1964 and 1965 when it was a member of the SEC East.
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AUBURN TIGERS (28-25, 13-14 SEC)
TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (23-28, 5-22 SEC)
WEEKEND PITCHING ROTATIONS
Thursday, May 19 (auburntigers.com audio / WKKR 97.7 FM)
Auburn at Tennessee 5PM Lindsey Nelson Stadium
Jr. RHP Jon Luke Jacobs (1-3, 3.44) vs. Jr. LHP Steven Gruver (4-7, 4.08)
Friday, May 20 (auburntigers.com audio / WKKR 97.7 FM)
Auburn at Tennessee 5PM Lindsey Nelson Stadium
Jr. RHP Derek Varnadore (5-2, 3.60) vs. So. RHP Nick Blount (1-4, 5.52)
Saturday, May 21 (auburntigers.com audio / WKKR 97.7 FM)
Auburn at Tennessee 1PM Lindsey Nelson Stadium
TBA vs. TBA
AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME!
Auburn stands in a four-way tie for first in the SEC West at 13-14 alongside Alabama, Mississippi State and Arkansas ... Auburn holds the tie-breaker on both Alabama and Arkansas but does not hold it against Mississippi State ... Auburn heads to Tennessee (5-22 SEC) in the last weekend while Alabama plays host to South Carolina (20-7), Arkansas plays host to Ole Miss (12-15) and Mississippi State plays host to LSU (11-16).
HOW WILL THE WEST BE WON?
Since the start of the two-division, 30-game conference schedule in 1996, no SEC Western Division champion has ever finished with less than 18 league wins, a fact that will change this year as the best record the top team in the West could finish with is 16-14, needing a sweep get there ... The fewest wins to ever claim an East division championship was 15 by South Carolina in 1999.
TRYING TO DEFEND THE WEST
Auburn is attempting to win a second straight SEC West title after going 20-10 in SEC play last year to win the West by two games over second-place Arkansas ... The last time Auburn won back-to-back division titles was in 1964 and 1965 when Auburn was in the Eastern Division.
CLINCHING A SEC TOURNAMENT BERTH
Auburn will clinch a SEC Tournament berth with just a single win over Tennessee and does not need any help to clinch ... Auburn is attempting to head to the SEC Tournament for the second straight season for the first time since going for seven straight seasons from 1997-2003.
Last season, Auburn went into its series against Tennessee with a chance to clinch a SEC Tournament berth, which it cemented with an 18-0 win on Saturday ... This year the team can also clinch a SEC Tournament berth with just one win and has a chance to win the SEC West for a second staright year.
Justin Fradejas is on a mini tear over the last 15 games, collecting 10 multi-hit games and raising his average from .295 on April 26 to .327 on May 17, going 27-for-66 (.409) with 18 runs scored in the process.
CASEY AT THE BAT
Casey McElroy is on a 10-game hitting streak, hitting .439 (18-for-41) since May 1 to raise his average from .341 at the end of April to .360 on May 17 ... In total, McElroy has reached base safely in 49 out of 53 games this season and has a .418 on base percentage and is ranked in the top 12 in eight offensive categories in the SEC (Batting Avg. - .362 - 6th; Slugging Pct - .543 - 7th; Hits - 76 - T1st; RBI - 50 - T3rd; Doubles - 17 - T6th; Home Runs - 7 -T9th; Total Bases - 114 - T4th; Sac Flies - 5 - T4th).
TONY THE TIGER
Tony Caldwell is closing the regular season on a hot streak, hitting safely in nine of the last 10 games (May 1-17) and raising his average from .295 to .324 in that span (16-for-38, .421, seven RBI, seven runs).
LAST TIME OUT
Auburn fell in its last non-conference game of the season, losing at South Alabama, 8-1, to finish its non-conference schedule 15-11.
With a win this weekend, the SEC Tournament.
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