Have you ever been hit in the face? Maybe you were just goofing around with some buddies when all of sudden you get a quick run right to the jaw. Things gets pretty serious pretty quickly and from then on it’s no longer fun. I’d imagine that feeling is similar to what Auburn felt on Friday. The offseason was full of promise, the team was returning a ton of players (even though we had some injury set backs), then on Friday Auburn loses 13-8. I poked around some Auburn message boards during the game and saw a bit of despair in some of the posts. I bit of unneeded despair to be honest. However, that was just one game, right? Just a slip up. On Saturday however, it looked like same story different verse. Auburn saw SEMO rally to tie the game and honestly, could have given up hope. Just packed it in. Something changed though. The Tigers had were messing around, got slapped in the face, and finally woke up. The managed to rally and win that game 9-8 in 10 innings and then put together an impressive 6-1 win on Sunday to take the series.
The official recaps are linked above, but I saw some things that didn’t really show up in the box score:
PITCHING vs ERRORS- Before we go on a jump on the Auburn pitchers, the biggest issue this weekend was Errors. Yes, at time the pitching struggled, but the errors helped inflate those ERAs. In total Auburn gave up a 22 Runs, yet only 12 of those were Earned. That’s your difference right there. Almost 50% of the runs Auburn allowed were unearned. That’s a huge swing that has to change.
So who made the errors? Jordan Neese (2), Dan Gamache (3), and Ryan Jenkins (3). I can think of at least one of Jenkins’s errors that can be attributed to Gamache (Jenks was trying to pick off a runner stealing third).
Can this be corrected? I think it already has. Neese started at SS Friday and didn’t see the field since. However, his errors have to be somewhat expected. He’s a walk-on, true freshman, playing a position that probably two days ago he had no clue he was going to be playing. Gamache calmed down and played exceptionally well Sunday.
PITCHING- Jon Luke Jacobs didn’t have the best of starts on Friday. Lasting only 4.2 innings, giving up 6 runs (4 er), JLJ struggled to find his rhythm and gave up 2 HRs which is totally uncharacteristic of him as a pitcher (he only have up 5 HRs all of last year). Outside of JLJ, though I’d have to say our pitchers actually did well (with one exception which I’ll get to).
Now, the box score will tell you different and a couple of guys ended up with ugly ERAs: Austin Hubbard (4.50), Bradley Hendrix (10.80), and Cory Luckie (13.50). Hubbard’s numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt. Austin came in to close the Saturday game with the bases loaded (no outs) in the 8th inning (and Auburn up 4 runs). He wasn’t able to get completely out of the fire, but still managed to leave Auburn with the lead heading into the 9th. Even then, one of those runs was scored on an error. The kid had to be gassed but still went out for the 9th. It didn’t end well and SEMO ended up tieing the game.
I’m not trying to make excuses, but for a closer, on a cold night, making his first appearance, who ALREADY got out of bases loaded jam the inning before, the cards were definitely stacked against him.
Hendrix could also be a victim of being overworked but, he just didn’t have his good stuff.
Luckie is another story. From what I saw this weekend, he’s just not ready. He’s making strides, but he’s definitely not 100% back from his injury. On Saturday he came in and walked a guy on 4 pitches. Sunday, he was a bit better but he didn’t have a ton of movement on any of his pitches. He was extremely hittable and it showed (and put Auburn in a jam on Sunday).
But for the struggles of the guys listed above, Auburn had some huge positives in the pitching department. Three guys in particular: Zach Blatt, Cole Nelson, and Stephen Kohlscheen.
Blatt was big on Saturday and really came through. He got a big strikeout in the 5th to kill the SEMO rally, carried Auburn through the 6th, and 7th, unscathed and let Auburn claw back into the game. His final line on Saturday: 2.1 ip/3h/3h/1er.
Cole Nelson was tremendous Sunday in his debut. 6.1ip/3h/0er/3k and 96 pitches. He looked calm, he looked in control, he looked like a stud to be perfectly honest. His partner in crime, Kohlscheen was just as good. He picked up the save Sunday and got some huge Ks to kill the only rally SEMO had on Sunday. Both of these guys were huge in their debut.
One thing is certain, Auburn is a completely different team offensively this year. Last year, we’d slug the ball out of the park and whiff at inopportune time. This weekend only 3 HRs, yet Auburn still managed to win the series. Bigger than that? 19 ks. That might seem like a lot, but in actuality it’s not. We still had some Ks in bad situations but unlike last year Auburn didn’t look lost at the plate.
The Tigers did a better job of playing small ball. A couple of nice hit and runs, good bunts, stolen bases. All are part of the Tigers arsenal now. Hunter Morris even had a stolen base. Granted, he still looked like a T-Rex running from 1st to 2nd, but a stolen base for Hunter just the same.
Creede Simpson was clutch all weekend. Delivering the game winning RBI on Saturday and having a solid weekend overall. Auburn still has a problem with leaving runners stranded (especially Saturday), but from what I could see Sunday, the Tigers are already making strides.
TOP PITCHER- Cole Nelson. Great Debut for the JUCO addition.
TOP HITTER- Dan Gamache. 4 for 9 this weekend. .556 avg with 2 rbis. He might not have the power but Gamache found a way to get on base every opportunity he had.
FINAL VERDICT- It wasn’t the best start for Auburn and a sweep would have been better. Taking all the external factors into account (injuries, guys playing out of position, etc) it still wasn’t completely bad. Auburn still has some major work to do to clean up those errors, but once we do, it could do some major damage. The pitching is still a question mark but with the work of Blatt, Kohlscheen, and Nelson, it’s looking better. Overall? 3 Jobus. Lots of work, but a series win is a series win.