Auburn baseball wrapped up their Fall World Series on Sunday to little fanfare. That’s to be expected when the football team comes off a big win and baseball (for many Auburn fans) is now an afterthought after the Braves were eliminated from post season play. Still, for Auburn is was a culmination of a Fall filled with improvement and laying the ground work for some hard fought position battles this spring. The results of the first two games are just simple write ups on the official site, so for any concrete evidence I knew I was going to have to witness the final (and technically championship game) of the series firsthand.
Pitching wise, it wasn’t the matchup I was hoping for. The one player I really wanted to see in person was Andrew Morris, the super transfer from Prattville, but he took the win Saturday (5ip/2r/3h/5k). Still, Bradley Hendrix and Will Irvin put on a good show for fans Sunday. Personally, I think Hendrix’s role will be a spot start here and there and as an innings-eater if a starter gets rocked on a weekend. Irvin is probably the same way.
At Itawamba CC, Irvin was clocked a low 90s fastaball and established three pitches that he could toss consistently for strikes. For me, I saw a guy with a solid delivery and little windup. He does rock back a bit before he releases (imagine a weightlifter dropping his butt while doing squats). He loved the left 1/3rd of the plate and would locate his first couple of pitches there. Against Righties it translates to inside fastballs that are almost unhittable. For lefties, Irvin will need to use his breaking ball a bit more. He was able to get Dan Gamache (a lefty) to chase a few balls outside, but once Irvin came inside Gamache ripped an early double to straight center.
The gray team (visitors) had, on paper, the best lineup. Fradejas (CF), Bowen (C), Gamache (LF), Patterson (1B), Cullen Wacker (RF), Mitchell Self (2B), Zach Alvord (SS), Mike Reed (3B), and Jay Gonzalez (DH). Kind of an interesting move putting Gamache in LF instead of his normal 3B position. At Plainsman Park it could work, because the short LF makes it one of the easier positions to field.
For the white team it was Justin Bryant (1B), Casey McElroy (SS), Tony Caldwell (C), Creede Simpson (RF), Wes Gilmer (2B), Tyler Dial (3B), Brooks Beisgner (LF), Stafford Booth (DH), and Bobby Andrews (CF).
A nice mix of veterans and new faces for the white team. Pitching for the White team was Bradley Hendrix. It was a nice bounceback by Hendrix who started the game unable to find the strike zone but ended his short outing (4ip/3r/3k).
I tried to take notes during the game so the rest of this write up might be a little scattershot.
- -Zach Alvord looks like a baseball player. Solid stance, solid build. He really didn’t have a chance to flash the leather during the game but I’m excited about what he could do in the future. He was a little too aggresive at the plate, like he was forcing the issue.
- -Color me impressed by Tyler Dail at 3rd. He’s not the biggest player on the field (listed at a generous 5’9”) but he held his own at 3B. Great zip on the ball.
- -Jay Gonzalez is a legitimate base stealing threat whenever he gets on. Tremendous speed. However, what I really liked is his mentality at the bag. He has good form and good base running stance. Low to the ground, arms loose, and he’s constantly timing the pitcher’s release with his eyes.
- -Most of the scoring came on misplays in the OF. Booby Andrews (white team) dove in for a ball which trickled by him. It scored 1. Couple that with a throwing error from Wes Gilmer back to home and you’ve got the main thing Auburn needs to work on this spring.
- -Creede Simpson still has some athleticism. Made a great diving catch to end the top half of the 4th inning.
- -As the 4th inning dragged to a close, Hendrix looked a little gassed. He was bouncing a few pitches up to the plate.
- -Brian Houghton was a relative unknown after redshirting last year. He came in of relief for Hendrix and look solid. He has a bit of a high leg kick in his delivery and doesn’t really try to hide the ball. In fact, he raises it up about shoulder height for a split second before he fires. Still, he got the win for the white. Going 2 innings and only allowing 1 base runner.
- -Patterson looks like he could hold his own at 1B. He looks more flexible than last year. He also showed a bit more patience at the plate (which I think is a must).
- -Infield communication is going to be critical. Bobby Andrews (white) layed down a bunt, KP came charging in hard (Gray) but so did Hendrix. The result? Andrews was safe and Hendrix was out of position. I’m unsure who the onus was on that position (there was a man already on first) and if it was Patterson’s or Hendrix ball to field.
- -Tony Caldwell still has a cannon behind the plate. He would have thrown out Andrews trying to steal, but Wes Gilmer broke late and then overshot 2B.
- -The Game winning, bases clearing hit by Creede Simpson (white) was the result of a another OF misplay. I’m pretty sure it was Gamache. Another instance of diving for a ball instead of just playing it on a hop and limiting damage.
- -Jay Wade pitched in relief for the Gray. Great fastball, but looked a little too reliant on it. He started back to back hitters on 0-2 counts with fastballs before losing them to walks.
- -A mystery man came in to pitch for the Gray as well. Jersey said #14 but there was no #14 on the Gray Roster.
- -Is Justin Bryant the new closer? He picked up 2 saves in 2 games during the fall world series.
Overall, I was impressed. Auburn showed more aggresiveness at the plate. Lots of bunts and a hit and run. As for the new bats? I don’t think Auburn lost a step. The bats have more a metallic crack sound now whenever contact is made (as opposed to the tell tale ping). Yet guys like Creede Simpson, Kevin Patterson, and Dan Gamache all had Home Runs during the fall series.