5 P Primer: Arkansas State

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:

PRESENTING: The Arkansas State University Red Wolves (formerly Indians) a Sun Belt team hoping for a bounce back from a simply-par 2010 campaign. A pretty nice school with an average baseball history. Well, average is putting it mildly. The Red Wolves have posted just winning record since 2005 and that was last year. There are still good things on the horizon for ASU and Head Coach Tommy Raffo has a reputation as being a solid recruiter and given a few years he could have the Red and Black making waves in a pretty competitive Sun Belt.

PREVIOUSLY: Everything you need to know about ASU this year can be summed up here: Have Hope. Keep Howling. For most teams, a 30-28 record would be a disappointment. However, for Arkansas State, it’s a glimmer of hope. Especially when buried in the 30-28 record is a 16-14 conference record. Yeah, a barely above .500 record isn’t the best thing, but when you haven’t done it since 1998? It means the program is on the right track. So, for the Red Wolves all they need to do is just “Have Hope and Keep Howling”.

PLAYMAKERS: One name stands out for the Red Wolves: Jacob Lee, who was named Preseason Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year:

Lee is the top returning pitcher for the Red Wolves from last season whose pitching staff ranked third in the Sun Belt Conference. Lee had a team-best 3.80 ERA and worked to a 8-3 record including 92.1 innings pitched. Lee struck out a team-best 83 batters and held opponents to a .246 batting average. He owned a 6-2 record in league play and helped the Red Wolves to a 12-2 victory against Troy in the 2010 Sun Belt Conference tournament for which he earned all-tournament honors.

The 6'1 Hometown Righty is a strike throwing machine. I don't know if Auburn will see him on Friday or if ASU holds him for the other weekend games. The other All Conference Selection to watch is Senior OF Todd Baumgartner who turned into a pretty solid offensive threat last year; sporting a .336 avg but Baumgartner's main contribution is in the field with his defense.

The biggest offensive threat is Sophomore OF Michael Faulkner. The Germantown/Memphis Native (and 4th best prospect out of Tennessee coming out of High School) has a respectable 2010 offensively and was rewarded with a Cape Cod League Invite. He hit for a .336 AVG with 55 Runs Scored and 81 hits. Probably one of the better lead-off hitters in the Sun Belt. Faulkner's speed and the new bats should keep him poised for a solid breakout season in 2011.

PREVIEW: One thing that could hamper the Red Wolves rebuilding process is replacing their biggest offensive weapons in 1B Murray Watts who was their only legitimate power threat. So, ASU will have to rely on a group of solid .300 hitters and an improved pitching staff. Honestly though, this game is less about handling Arkansas State and more about Auburn trying to adjust to the new bats and a new offensive mind set. The Red Wolves have some pretty solid and consistent arms but outside of that, I'm not seeing a team that was picked to finish 6th in the Sun Belt is better than a team that is expected to compete for an SEC West Title.

PREDICTION: If Lee is on the Mound for ASU then it could end up being a touch match-up for Auburn. Other than that? The key is to limit the ASU lineup and adjust on the fly to the new bats in their first real world/ real game experience. Overall, this game should serve as a tune-up for the marquee Saturday matchup against Virginia.


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