Sunday, March 21, 2010

Recap: Tigers Bounce Bulldogs

It really started on Friday. Auburn just completely blitz the Bulldogs by a final of 20-3. If you were able to catch the game on CSS, you had to be amazed at the hitting display that the Tigers put on. Hunter Morris put on a show with 2 HR and 6 RBIs. Normally, that’s good enough on its on and would be enough to get player of the weekend honors. However, Morris was actually overshadowed by Justin Bryant who had a career night with 2 HR of his own and 8 RBIs. Such a solid display that the College Baseball Hall of Fame asked for something game used by JB to display in Lubbock. He even got a bit of ribbing (and a powdering) from his teammates during his post game interview on CSS:

We could go on and on about the hitting for AU on Friday, but the real story for the entire weekend was the pitching. Which is a bit surprising. I thought, coming in, that every game would be a shootout, but credit Auburn’s staff they came to play. Every one of Auburn’s starters went at least 5 innings and the biggest surprise was Cory Luckie. On Friday, he had everything working and really turned a bit of heads. Let’s take a closer look at Luckie’s performance and why he was so effective:




Aside from 2 mistake pitches that led to two UGA HRs, Luckie was in control all night. He ran in to a bit of trouble in the 5th but bounced back nicely. For the most part, Luckie threw first pitch strikes and never really extended himself deep into counts. It’s the Cory Luckie Auburn fans were hoping would show up this season and I think with that performance, he’s settled in as a Friday starter. Luckie will never overpower hitters. However, he’s one of the smartest players on the Tiger team and when he can work his spots and velocity (specifically his changeup) he can be near unhittable and one of the best in the SEC.



Saturday, the Tigers were locked in a pitchers duel. Thankfully for us, Cole Nelson was able to outpitch UGA’s Ace Justin Grimm (despite JG Striking Out 9 Auburn hitters). Saturday’s game really showed how Auburn can be effective manufacturing runs. Grimm did a good job holding AU in check but the difference in the game was a Justin Bryant suicide squeeze that was beautifully executed and put Auburn up 4-0 at the time. Then, what was one of Auburn’s weaknesses became a strength. The Auburn bullpen had some scary moments but never gave up the lead. Credit John Palowski. Knowing how important the rubber game was for Auburn and how much they needed to keep the lead, he turned to Austin Hubbard in the 6th.



UGA had knocked around starter Cole Nelson for a walk, single, stolen base, and a ground ball rbi. Zach Blatt came in to try to curb some of the damage. Blatt wasn’t really as effective as ZB has normally been. Blatt for a K but then hit a UGA batter and gave up an RBI single. CJP then called on Austin Hubbard. Hubbard got a K to kill the UGA rally and Auburn leaned on him for the rest of the game. In the end, Austin threw 63 pitches (to compare, Cole Nelson, as the starter pitched 78) pitched 3.1 innings, 6 ks, 2 walks, 3 hits, and only 1 ER. It was really a battle and high pressure situation:



The 7th was the rough one for Austin as he walked in a UGA run to cut the Auburn lead to 4-3. However, the 8th and 9th was where Austin shined. 3 up 3 down in back to back innings and really pitched his heart out.



On Sunday it became the Grant Dayton show and probably bought himself another chance in the weekend rotation. Dayton pitched well in to the 7th. Only giving up 1 ER and keeping UGA from getting into the bullpen. You never would have thought that Cole Nelson could be overshadowed, but in all honesty, Nelson pitched the worst of any Auburn pitcher (and if 5.1 ip/4h/2r/5k/2bb is bad, then you know Auburn pitching was spot on all weekend). The only thing that concerns me about Nelson is his control. He’s been missing his spots more over the past three series and his Wild Pitches have increased. The good news is that it’s really the only way you can criticize his game. Everything else has been completely spot on.



HITTER OF THE SERIES:


Hunter Morris better get SEC Player of Week. I mean the guy only went 10 for 16 with 14 rbis, 4 HRs (including a Grand Slam). Simply incredible.



PITCHER OF THE SERIES:

Cory Luckie. 7 ip/2er/5h/1bb/7k A great performance and gives Auburn a confident Friday starter.



JOBUs



What more could ask for? An SEC Sweep (The first since 2003), a SEC Series Opening Sweep (the first since 1998). The offense clicked, the pitching held, and at the end of the first weekend of SEC play, the Tigers sit in first place in the west. You really couldn’t ask for anything more.

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