An old coach used to always hammer the 5 "Ps": Prior planning prevents poor performance. Not just a fancy slogan that gets a High School football coach/Driver's Ed instructor through the day; it's also a good way to know what to expect from upcoming Auburn opponents. Here's your 5 "Ps" for Auburn's next opponent: The Jacksonville State Gamecocks
PRESENTING: The Jacksonville State University Gamecocks. A relative newcomer on the D1 Baseball scene, the Cocks won DIII Titles in 1990 and 1991 and have dominated Ohio Valley Competition. Winning either the Tournament or Regular Season titles in 04, 05, 06, 08, and this year in 2010. This will be Gamecocks third appearance in the NCAA Tournament but are still searching for that elusive first postseason win.
PREVIOUSLY- AU and JSU didn’t play for 16 years until they finally renewed their series a couple of weeks ago. Now the Tigers and Gamecocks will square off again. Auburn leads the all time series 14-12 and won 9-7 in the May 18th matchup. I wouldn’t use that as a barometer for Auburn. Honestly, for the Tigers the focus was elsewhere. It was the final regular season homegame, a midweek game, in between class sessions. Still it was a bit of a wakeup call for Auburn and I’m sure it will be extra motivation for Auburn because it’s already motivation for JSU:
“I’m excited to have a second shot at them,” said second baseman Bert Smith, the other Gamecocks player with NCAA regional experience. “The thing I remember about that game is we didn’t quit.
“We kept fighting and kept fighting. Even though we got beat, it gave us hope we actually could beat someone as good as Auburn.”
Having played so recently will have some advantages for the Gamecocks, JSU coach Jim Case said.
“You probably have a truer vision of what they’re about,” he said. “Auburn wasn’t playing great early, well, they’ve played fantastic late — we’ve seen that — so from that standpoint, that’s true.
“But probably the pitchers we saw may not be the same guys we’ll see, so there is a difference. But it’s the same with us. The guys they will see will be different guys.”
PLAYMAKERS- Surprisingly, there are a number of guys to look out for on the JSU roster. Todd Cunningham and Bert Smith are the two offensive sparkplugs that can do the most damage. They aren’t complete power guys (Smith has a total of Zero HRs all year) but they are consistent. Smith has a .371 avg and Cunningham has a .352 avg. Both guys are patient at the plate and have sold speed. Mainly, it’s just their ability to get on base that makes them dangerous. Both were also all OVC Tournament Selections. Smith has a complete checklist of accomplishments:
2009 OVC Preseason All-Conference
2008 Ohio Valley Conference First-Team
2008 OVC All-Tournament
OVC Player of the Week (May 12, 2008)
2007 Ohio Valley Conference First-Team
2007 OVC All-Tournament
2006 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America
2006 Ohio Valley Conference Second-Team
2006 Ohio Valley Conference All-Freshman
2006 OVC All-Tournament
The Senior from Pelham is a blazer on the basepaths, solid defensively, and it’s just his lack of power that prevents him from being a complete 5 Tool player.
Cunningham is probably the best player you’ve never heard of. The Hometown kid has a solid league in the Cape Cod League and was a preseason All-American.
On the hill, it’s really Austin Lucas and that’s it. At least Statwise. Luca is 6-0 on the year with 3 Complete Games and 1 Shutout. Decent on Strikeouts and his 4.97 ERA is deceiving. The Senior from Alabaster is a big game pitcher and just wins. That’s all your can really ask from a starter.
PREVIEW: Again, you can’t take the 9-7 Auburn win as Gospel. Auburn and JaxState are both completely different teams. Even though it’s only been roughly three weeks since they last met. Lucas would be a challenge (if he actually starts) but Auburn will counter with Cory Luckie. Both teams will come in hungry but for Auburn, this first game is getting back on track and washing away the taste of a disappointing SEC Tournament. Luckie will need to limit Cunningham and Smith.
PREDICTION: I can’t pick against Auburn here. I just can’t. Plainsman Park will be sold out and Auburn fans are chomping at the bit to advance. The First step is Jacksonville State. Time to take care of business. I’m going with Auburn.