Thursday, March 3, 2011

5P Primer: Charleston Tournament (Part 1: NYIT)

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Time for a road trip, and for Auburn this should be a great time to take the show out of Auburn for a little bit. A chance to refresh the batteries so to speak. Why? Well, for starters the Tigers are still stinging a bit after their loss to Bethune on Wednesday. A team that Auburn knew they could beat. Coach Pawlowski was on Inside the Auburn Tiger's Radio Thursday afternoon and said the bus ride to Charleston was a little subdued and the Wednesday game was still on their minds.


Think of this game as the ultimate reboot. A new location, early times, 3 different teams in 3 days. This is a great chance to press the reset button on the 2011 Auburn season. Not that everything is going southward. Heck, just look across the State at an Alabama team that's loss 4 straight to UCF, USA, SELA, and USM. That's a team that is reeling. Not Auburn.


Auburn's problems boil down to one simple thing, or one simple lack of a thing. Timely hitting. Auburn can get men on base. Move them over. However, we just can't cash them in. It's frustrating to say the least. Will they come? Sure. Well, hopefully. Pawlowski seems to be moving and shuffling the lineup as best he can at this point. However, there are holes in the lineup that have gone from minor bumps to huge potholes. Justin Fradejas showed a little bit of life on Tuesday but has gone ice cold at other times. Zach Alvord has struggled and Wes Gilmer's hot hitting has pushed him out a bit and really forced Alvord to battle for playing time. Brooks Beisner and Cullen Wacker are a bit interchangeable at this point. It's been tough sledding for all involved, really.


So what's the solution? Well, I can't sit here and say I have the answer. I don't see the team on a daily basis like Coach Pawlowski. Gut feeling though? The hits are going to come. Auburn still leads the league in doubles, so that shows that the bats aren't completely silent. The hits just don't fall like the did last year.


What is going well for Auburn is the pitching. It's been nothing sort of a revelation this year. Slade Smith, Ethan Wallen, Derek Varnadore, Andrew Morris. A ton of new guys have stepped up and a ton of old faces have settled in. The trick with the pitching is just making through the middle innings unscathed. Hmm, I wonder where I've heard that before. Yet, just like last year, I fully expect Auburn to settle down and fix the middle innings. Guys will get stretched out and go longer. They'll be more efficient. It'll work out.


Now we're back to the weekend. A fresh start. A change of scenery. For the past two weeks. Really, for the past 6 months, all Auburn has seen has been the friendly confines of Plainsman Park. I do love our stadium. I honestly do. However, for a team struggling on offense, it can be an absolute killer. The dimensions cause outfielders to play at odd spots and not play deep, which in turn can put them in position easier. With the changes to the bats the ball just isn't traveling as far.


This weekend, Auburn plays at spacious "Ballpark at Patriots Point", right off the Charleston Harbor. It plays like a minor league stadium and could hopefully be the medicine the Auburn bats need. Apparently, the ball (along with some wind whipping off the water) can fly.


What about the opponents. Well, New York Tech (NYIT) is an interesting team. A member of the Great West Conference (yes, a team in the Northeast is a member of the Great West Conference) and this is their first baseball game of the year.


All I can really tell about NYIT is that Preston Wasmund will take the mound. Yes, he's a senior leader. Last year, he posted a 5.99 ERA and 6-3 Record. He's not an overpowering guy (35k in 76 innings) and the Bears were picked to finish 4th out of 8 teams in the GWC.




NYIT returns a core group of veterans in 2011 with senior captains George Carroll and Preston Wasmund leading the way. Last season, Wasmund made 16 appearances on the mound, starting 11 games and producing a 6-3 record.

With the loss of players like Brian Smith, Christian Dienna and Andrew Guarrasi to graduation, head coach Bob Hirschfield, who enters his 30th season at the helm of NYIT baseball, is relying on the underclassmen - the freshmen turned sophomores and sophomores turned juniors - to step up to the Division I talent and meet the challenges set forth this season.

Luckily, the Bears return three of their top-5 producers at the plate in seniors Effrey Valdez and Jerry Smith, and junior Sebastian Grazziani. The trio accounted for 138 of the Bears 398 runs last season. Valdez batted .438 with 21 doubles, 11 homers and 46 RBIs, while Smith hit a .374 clip with a team-best 59 RBIs. Grazziani added six doubles, nine homers and 45 RBIs.

Also returning for NYIT is 2010 starting infielders Ryan Campbell and Ali Rodriguez as well as outfielders Dane Hardy and Dan Lackner. Last season, Rodriguez swiped a team-best 22 bags in 24 attempts. On the mound, Hirschfield

brings back six righties and one lefty in addition to RHP Wasmund.



Oh, in case you were wondering, the other teams in the GWC are Utah Valley, Northern Colorado, Houston Baptist, North Dakota, UT-Pan Am, NJIT, and Chicago State.


PRESENTING


The New York Institute of Technology Bears. Right off Broadway. I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure baseball is the only sport NYIT competes in at a Division 1 level.


PREVIOUSLY


Nothing. This is the first game of the year for NYIT and the first time the two teams have met.


PLAYMAKERS


Your guess is as good as mine.


PREVIEW


Hopefully a change in scenery can help Auburn's bats wake up.


PREDICTION


I'm going to put this bluntly. Auburn better win this damn game.

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