In a surprise move, Cole Nelson, who I will still call Auburn's de fact ACE, is getting the starting nod against Troy tonight. It's a shrewd move by Coach John Pawlowski. However, it's one that has already worked his year. Cory Luckie bounced around a bit to start the year then struggled and ultimately was shelved until two midweek starts, when Luckie was the "designated starter" against New Orleans last week and South Alabama the week before. In both cases, Luckie pitched only 2 innings (giving up 2 hits and 0 ER versus USA, and 0 hits vs UNO) and was pulled without raising his pitch count. All it did was boost his confidence and help him show himself that he had the stuff to compete in the SEC again. He responded in a big way. Tossing a complete game against Vandy. A very dominating performance:
Strangely the inning that Luckie was most effective (where he got 1st pitch strikes and was ahead in the count) was the one where he gave up his only two runs. Overall, it was a very dominating performance and one that was a long time coming. More than that, it was a performance that probably would not have been possible without regaining his confidence. Two midweek starts and only 4 innings. That's really all it took.
Now, let's hope for Auburn's sake that it doesn't take 2 midweek starts to get back on track. However part of me can't blame Cole for struggling. He's been shifted around a ton, that heartbreaker against Carolina still has to sting a little bit, and his past two outing have been horrendous. More than that though, Cole is dealing with the real world. That's his father pictured above in the Auburn sweatshirt, battling cancer. Below his a news feature about Cole's Dad and some of things he is trying to accomplish:
One quote sticks out to me:
He also hopes to visit Auburn University this spring. Nelson's oldest son Cole is a starting pitcher there.
More chemotherapy is scheduled to treat Nelson's cancer in the near future. His tumor has been reduced but is not eradicated. However, his prognosis is good.
Even with Nelson pitching 2 innings tonight, he could still be available for this weekend. Just like Luckie was. So for now, here's to Cole Nelson regaining his form against South Alabama and returning to that dominant pitcher we saw early in his Auburn career. The midweek magic worked wonders for Cory Luckie. I'm sure it can do the same for Cole Nelson