Going in to the 2011 Campaign, there are Nine Questions Auburn Baseball has to answer. These burning questions will be the keys for success. Up first, Just how good is Andrew Morris.
With the loss of Cole Nelson, Auburn is left with a big keystone to fill. A front line, dominant, and above all else, consistent starting pitcher. I italicize consistent because that’s the biggest issue that plagued Nelson and prevented him from really filling that role last year. Not entirely Nelson’s fault, though. The health issues with his father, the way he was bounced around the rotation, and the times he was forced to carry the team, left him having some pretty uneven performances. Still, to be successful in the league, you need a guy that you can say, “Here’s our Friday Night Guy. Try to beat him.” With the weekend series, a solid pitching performance on day one can help roll momentum for the rest of the weekend.
The guy Auburn will likely turn to will be a newcomer, JUCO Pitcher Andrew Morris. Just how good is Morris?
What is so special about the 6’3, 190lbs right-handed pitching Sophomore out of Prattville, Alabama? In his Freshman year at Gulf Coast, he went 10-2 with a 2.77 ERA. He had more strikeouts than innings pitched, fanning 107 batters in 94 innings. His strikeout total was more than double his number of walks (42). And he only gave up 65 hits on the season. In 14 appearances as a Freshman, six were complete games and one was a shutout in 14 appearances. On April 21, 2009 Morris was named the FCCAA Pitcher of the Week after tossing a complete-game, 12 strikeout, two-hitter in a win over then-No. 9 Northwest Florida. Morris showed up to play whether he was facing a better or weaker team.
That was just his first year at Gulf Coast.The sophomore campaign was even better. He finished GCCC with 223 Ks to 89 Walks (almost a 3:1 ratio) in almost 187 Innings work (About a K an inning) and a 3.19 ERA. He improved his draft status from the 44th Round after his freshman year to the 16th round in 2010.
Morris is a special talent. There is no denying that. He is a strike throwing workhorse who tops about 92 with his fastball. He’s also got a nice deep curveball and a solid slider as an out pitch. He can eat up innings and save the bullpen for the rest of the weekend. Coach John Pawlowski was already singing his praises when he signed with the Tigers:
"Andrew is one of the premier junior college pitchers in the country. Anytime you can get a successful pitcher or player out of the Florida Panhandle Conference, you feel great about it. Andrew was the best in that league last year so we feel extremely fortunate to have him as a part of this signing class. He has an unmatched work ethic combined with exceptional talent and a high baseball IQ."
One thing is clear, Morris can easily go the distance any time he takes the mound. If he’s just 70% of what he was in JUCO then Auburn has their man for Fridays. So how does the rest of the weekend rotation play out? My best guess (and my hope) is that we slot Slade Smith on Saturdays and Corey Luckie on Sundays, with John Luke Jacobs as a spot starter/midweek guy. Now, if Morris doesn’t pan out and Auburn is still searching for a solidified rotation by the midpoint of the season then the Tigers are in trouble.