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May 31, 2010

Clemson, Southern Miss, Jacksonville State coming to Auburn for NCAA Regional

Auburn’s upcoming baseball regional is set. The top-seeded Tigers will play host to second-seeded Clemson, third-seeded Southern Miss and fourth-seeded Jacksonville State this weekend.

“You look at the teams across the country and certainly in our regional, it’s going to be tough,” Auburn head coach John Pawlowski said.

Auburn opens Friday at 6 p.m. against Jacksonville State in the double elimination tournament. The Tigers beat the Gamecocks 9-7 on May 18 at Plainsman Park.

Clemson and Southern Miss will play the first game Friday at 2 p.m.

Jacksonville State (32-24) won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament after finishing second during the regular season.

Clemson (38-21) tied for first in the ACC’s Atlantic Division with Florida State. The Tigers are led by Kyle Parker, the football team’s quarterback, who hit .364 with 19 home runs and 57 RBIs.

The matchup has some has personal ties for Pawlowski, who played at Clemson in the early ’80s and coached for several years under current Tigers coach Jack Leggett.

“Coach Leggett gave me my first opportunity to coach in college baseball and I can’t say enough about that,” Pawlowski said. “When it comes down to it, we know our guys are going to have to play well regardless of who we play.”

Southern Miss made a surprise run to last year’s College World Series for the first time in school history. The Golden Eagles (35-22) upset Rice for the Conference-USA tournament championship after finishing second during the regular season.

Here’s the full NCAA bracket. Auburn’s Super Regional pairing is from the Atlanta regional, which includes Georgia Tech, Alabama, Elon and Mercer.

Ticket information can be found at the bottom of this page.

LIVE blogging the NCAA baseball selection show

We’re coming to you live from a very crowded Loco’s, where the Auburn baseball team will be watching the NCAA selection show.

The Tigers earned one of 16 regional host sites yesterday. Today, they’ll find out the other three teams in their four-team regional. We’ll blog the results just as soon as they’re released on ESPN.

Follow the blog on Twitter for instant updates.
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UPDATE: Here are you top-eight national seeds (in order): Arizona State, Texas, Florida, Coastal Carolina, Virginia, UCLA, Louisville and Georgia Tech.
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(Seeds in order, 1-4)

  • Arizona State regional: Arizona State, San Diego, Hawai’i, UW-Milwaukee
  • Texas regional: Texas, Rice, La-Lafayette, Rider
  • Florida regional: Florida, Florida Atlantic, Oregon State, Bethune-Cookman
  • Coastal Carolina regional: Coastal Carolina, College of Charleston, N.C. State, Stony Brook
  • Virginia regional: Virginia, Ole Miss, St. John’s, Virginia Commonwealth
  • UCLA regional: UCLA, LSU, UC-Irvine, Kent State
  • Louisville regional: Louisville, Vanderbilt, Illinois State, St. Louis
  • Georgia Tech regional: Georgia Tech, Alabama, Elon, Mercer

Commercial break: back in a second.
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We’re back. Auburn’s coming up soon:

  • Miami regional: Miami, Texas A&M, Florida International, Dartmouth
  • Cal State Fullerton regional: Cal State Fullerton, Stanford, New Mexico, Minnesota
  • UConn regional: Florida State, UConn, Oregon, Central Connecticut State
  • TCU regional: TCU, Baylor, Arizona, Lamar
  • Auburn regional: Auburn, Clemson, Southern Miss, Jacksonville State
  • South Carolina regional: South Carolina, Virginia Tech, The Citadel, Bucknell
  • Arkansas regional: Arkansas, Washington State, Kansas State, Grambling
  • Oklahoma regional: Oklahoma, California, North Carolina, Oral Roberts

May 30, 2010

Auburn baseball to host NCAA Regional

Postseason baseball is coming back to Auburn. The Tigers, who returned to prominence by winning 40 games and capturing the SEC Western Division title for the first time since 1995, were awarded one of the NCAA’s 16 regional host sites Sunday.

It’s the fourth time in school history Auburn will host a regional and the first time since 2003.

“Our first and foremost goal was to get into SEC tournament, and then the next thing you know we won the West, and now we’re hosting,” Auburn head coach John Pawlowski said. “It’s a tribute to what these guys have done on the field. They know it’s going to be a great challenge, but it’s one that they feel like they deserve, and they do.”
The SEC had the most regional sites, with Arkansas, Florida and South Carolina also hosting.
The four-team regionals will take place Friday through Monday, with a double elimination format.

The rest of the 64-team bracket — including the top eight seeds and regional pairings — will be released tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. The bracket will be set through the Super Regionals and will not be re-seeded once play begins.

It’s Auburn’s first NCAA appearance since 2005 and 18th overall. The Tigers last hosted in 2003 but were upset that year by third-seeded Ohio State.

They have played extremely well at home this year, going 27-7 at Plainsman Park. They were 13-12 at neutral and road sites.

“We encourage Auburn fans to come out and pack the park,” Pawlowski said. “Anytime you’re playing at home, it helps.”

Auburn, which surged down the stretch to clinch the SEC West, struggled in its first conference tournament appearance since 2003, getting eliminated on the third day after losses to seventh-seeded Alabama and sixth-seeded Ole Miss.

“I think it will help them realize we have to play at a higher level,” Pawlowski said. “I think it’s going to only to help us.”

The team got banged up in Hoover, with two of its top hitters suffering injuries. Left fielder Brian Fletcher bruised his hand after being hit by a pitch Thursday and center fielder Trent Mummey suffered a hamstring injury. Both were held out of the starting lineup in Auburn’s final tournament game Friday against Ole Miss.
Pawlowski said Fletcher was “feeling better” and took some swings Sunday, while Mummey remained “very limited.”

The Tigers will gather tomorrow to watch the NCAA selection show and see the other three teams in their regional, after which Pawlowski will set the pitching rotation.

Tickets can be purchased online at autigertickets.com or by calling 1-800-AUB-1957. Reserved seats for all sessions are $75 and terrace tickets are $50. Students of participating teams can buy ticket packages for $25.
Current Auburn season ticket holders will have the opportunity to purchase their same seats, based on availability. The school cannot guarantee the exact seat location, however, because it is an NCAA event.
Here is the breakdown of regional hosts by conference:
  • Southeastern 4 (Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, South Carolina)
  • Atlantic Coast 3 (Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia)
  • Big East 2 (Connecticut, Louisville)
  • Big 12 2 (Oklahoma, Texas)
  • Pacific-10 2 (Arizona State, UCLA)
  • Big South 1 (Coastal Carolina)
  • Big West 1 (Cal State Fullerton)
  • Mountain West 1 (TCU)

May 29, 2010

QB Kiehl Frazier commits to Auburn

Auburn’s second Big Cat recruiting weekend has already paid dividends. The Tigers got a commitment Saturday from Kiehl Frazier, a blue-chipper from Springdale, Ark., who Scout.com ranks as the No. 4 overall quarterback prospect in the country.

Inside the Auburn Tigers and AuburnSports.com reported the new first.

Frazier, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound dual-threat quarterback, threw for 3,817 yards and 48 touchdowns last year at Shiloh Christian. He also ran for 764 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, an Arkansas native who still has connections to the area, was the head coach at Shiloh Christian from 1996-2000.

Frazier, who is the Tigers’ seventh commit for 2011, chose Auburn over numerous offers, including Arkansas and Notre Dame.

The Tigers did not sign a quarterback out of high school last year, although they added junior college transfer Cam Newton from Blinn (Texas) Community College in December. Newton emerged from the spring as the No. 1 quarterback.

Auburn had some quarterback attrition this offseason. Tyrik Rollison, a 2009 signee, decided to transfer after the spring semester.

The quarterbacks expected to be on Auburn’s roster in 2011 include Newton, who will be a senior, Barrett Trotter, who will be a junior, and Clint Moseley, who will be a sophomore.

Auburn hosted around 30 recruits as part of its Big Cat Weekend the last few days. It was the second time Gene Chizik‘s staff has held the event.

Here’s the Tigers’ updated commitment list:

  • Angelo Blackson, DL, 6-5, 289, Bear, Del. (Red Lion Christian Academy)
  • Reese Dismukes, C, 6-3, 272, Spanish Fort, Ala. (Spanish Fort High)
  • Kiehl Frazier, QB, 6-3, 215, Springdale, Ark. (Shiloh Christian)
  • Chris Landrum, LB, 6-2, 215, Sweet Water, Ala. (Sweet Water High)
  • Izauea Lanier, DB, 6-1, 190, Gordo, Ala. (East Mississippi CC)
  • Thomas O’Reilly, OL, 6-3, 315, Marietta, Ga. (Pope High)
  • Anthony Swain, S, 6-3, 215, Gadsden, Ala. (Gadsden City High)

SEC baseball: Ole Miss downs Auburn 10-7 in extras, ends Tigers’ tournament on third day

HOOVER, Ala. — The Auburn bullpen danced in and out of trouble for several excruciating innings Thursday against South Carolina, eventually pulling out a win.

The group was not as fortunate Friday against Ole Miss.

Taylor Hashman launched a 10th-inning Bradley Hendrix fastball out to dead center at Regions Park for a three-run homer, lifting Ole Miss to a 10-7 win and eliminating second-seeded Auburn from the SEC tournament.

The Tigers (40-19) contributed to their own misery by tying a season-high with five errors, ending their first SEC tournament appearance since 2003 after only three games.

“Obviously we didn’t play at a high championship level today,” Auburn head coach John Pawlowski said. “We made some mistakes and it certainly cost us the ballgame.”

The sixth-seeded Rebels (38-21) advance to play eighth-seeded LSU tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. ET. LSU has not lost in the tournament.

Auburn, the SEC West champions, will find out Sunday afternoon whether it hosts an NCAA Regional. The full NCAA tournament bracket will be released Monday.

Pawlowski thought the Tigers’ 40 wins, division crown and strong RPI should be enough to host a regional.

“We’ve done an awful lot and certainly deserve it, but you never know what the committee is going to do,” he said.

The Rebels exacted a bit of revenge after watching Auburn outscore them 34-8 in a three-game sweep last weekend in Oxford, Miss., to clinch the West.

“It’s really big emotionally,” Hashman said. “We wanted to play them again and show them that we can beat them.”

The Tigers didn’t help their own cause, with a number of mental and physical errors in the field that led to four unearned runs. Auburn hadn’t had that poor of a fielding performance since the first two games of the season, when it committed five errors in back-to-back games against Southeast Missouri.

“We lost that game,” first baseman Hunter Morris said. “We didn’t execute and that ended up costing us.”

Three errors came in a blunder-filled seventh. Left fielder Tony Caldwell dropped a fly ball, center fielder Creede Simpson threw the ball away trying to get a runner at third and second baseman Justin Hargett let a hard-hit grounder get through him with the infield playing in.

With the benefit of only two hits, Ole Miss scored three times to take a 7-4 lead.

“I think we’re a better team than what we played and showed,” Caldwell said.

Auburn tied things up on Morris’ towering three-run homer to right in the bottom of the inning. It was the SEC Player of the Year’s 21st this year.

But unlike South Carolina, which wasted several extra-inning opportunities the day before, Ole Miss grabbed the lead in extra innings. Auburn reliever Sean Ray (2-3) put the go-ahead run on base in the 10th with a walk. Hendrix came in and, two batters later, gave up the Hashman homer on a challenge fastball.

“I think we needed the win more emotionally to get back on track,” said Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, whose team lost its final five regular season SEC games.

The Tigers didn’t start two of their top hitters, keeping Brian Fletcher (left hand) on the bench and using Trent Mummey (hamstring) only as a pinch hitter. The offense lagged, striking out a season-high 14 times, eight of them coming against reliever Matt Crouse.

Auburn, which finished the season as the SEC’s top hitting team by a wide margin, struck out 27 times in its final two tournament games.

“We’ve just got to battle and be ready to bounce back next week,” Morris said. “Today was obviously disappointing, but the maturity level of this team is there and we’re going to bounce back.”

May 28, 2010

Hoover, Day 3: Ole Miss 10, Auburn 7, FINAL/10

8:37 p.m.: Auburn goes down quietly in the 10th. It’s a final: 10-7 Ole Miss. Here’s the quickie story.

Back with more in a bit.
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8: 29 p.m.: Taylor Hashman hits a three-run homer to center off Bradley Hendrix to make it 10-7.

Auburn’s got Justin Bryant, Ryan Jenkins and Casey McElroy coming up.
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8:20 p.m.: Sean Ray issues a four-pitch walk with one out. He’s done. In comes RHP Bradley Hendrix.
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8:16 p.m.: Hunter Morris came up with one out but hit a soft tapper to end the inning. It’s free baseball for the second straight game.
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8:09 p.m.: Miracle double play by Auburn. Wes Gilmer replaced Justin Hargett at second. The ball ate him up, but it bounced right into the glove of shortstop Casey McElroy, who turned the double play to end the inning. 7-7 heading to Auburn’s half of the ninth.
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8:02 p.m.: Auburn pinch hits with Trent Mummey, who has a sore hammy. He promptly grounds into a double play, unable to run it out hard down to first.

We’re tied at 7-7 going to the 9th.
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7:51 p.m.: Sean Ray gets Alex Yarbrough to fly out with runners on first and second. Crisis averted. Casey McElroy, Creede Simpson, Justin Hargett coming up for Auburn.
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7:47 p.m.: Michael Hurst gets two outs before allowing two baserunners. Auburn goes to lefty Sean Ray out of the bullpen.
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7:38 p.m.: We’re through seven tied at 7. LHP Michael Hurst coming into the game for Auburn.
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7:32 p.m.: Three-run blast by Hunter Morris, a moonshot to right, ties the game at 7-7. That’s an SEC Player of the Year moment right there. Morris has 21 homers this year.

That’s it for Matt Crouse, who struck out a career-high eight. Reliever Trent Rothlin coming into the game.
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7:21 p.m.: Some Keystone Cops fielding just led to two unearned Ole Miss runs. Tony Caldwell dropped a fly ball to left off Taylor Hashman‘s bat that would have been the second out.

Alex Yarbrough followed with a single to center. Creede Simpson came up throwing to third but hit Hashman in the back. The ball bounded away and the throw to the plate was too high.

David Phillips followed by hitting a hard grounder that ate up a drawn-in Justin Hargett at second to make it 6-4. Miles Hamblin added an RBI single to make it 7-4.

Auburn had five errors in the game. That ties a season high.
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7:07 p.m.: Justin Hargett strikes out for the third time, shortly before Creede Simpson gets caught stealing.

That’s seven strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings for Crouse. Auburn has 10 strikeouts in the game.
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6:58 p.m.: Quick inning for Slade Smith, who strikes out the side. That’s 2 1/3 scoreless innings for Smith, who is quickly becoming the favorite to take that No. 3 starter spot in the regionals.
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6:52 p.m.: We’re tied up again. Tony Caldwell singled and moved to third on a two-base throwing error on right fielder David Phillips. Justin Bryant pinch hit for Kevin Patterson and hit a sac fly to right-center.

Umps missed a call on a pitch that replays showed hit Bryant on the foot, by the way. John Pawlowski argued the call to no avail.

Bryant hasn’t been able to do much since breaking a bone in his hand earlier this year when he was hit by a pitch.
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6:41 p.m.: No score for Ole Miss. Auburn turns a nice 4-6-3 double play to wipe out a leadoff single.

Throwing error on shortstop Casey McElroy was the Tigers’ second. They’re not having a strong fielding day at all.
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6:35 p.m.: Auburn is not seeing the ball well off Matt Crouse, who has four strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings. Justin Fradejas got picked off to end the inning. 4-3 Ole Miss.
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6:27 p.m.: A couple miscues hurt Auburn again. Tim Ferguson tried to catch the Tigers napping and steal second when Cole Nelson wasn’t paying attention. Nelson saw him at the last second and threw to Justin Hargett in time to easily get Ferguson, but Hargett dropped the ball.

After a ground out, Nelson overthrew a fastball for a wild pitch. Ferguson scored to make it 4-3.

Nelson then hit a batter — his third of the game — to finish his night. Partial line: 3 2/3 innings, 4 runs, 6 hits, 2 walks, 3 hit batsmen, 4 strikeouts.

Slade Smith in the game for Auburn.
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6:18 p.m.: Auburn failed to break it open. The Tigers chased starter David Goforth by loading the bases with one out. But reliever Matt Crouse struck out Casey McElroy and Creede Simpson to get out of the jam. And that was after falling behind 2-0 to McElroy and 3-0 to Simpson. Big missed opportunity for Auburn.

Crouse has inherited 14 runners this year and none of them have scored.

Cole Nelson coming out for another inning.
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6:04 p.m.: Tony Caldwell finally hit one that the stadium didn’t hold. Caldwell, who’s starting today in place of Brian Fletcher (hand), got a hold of a pitch and hit it out to left for a two-run homer that tied the game at 3.

It’s Caldwell’s ninth home run this year.
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5:55 p.m.: Ole Miss scored again. Nelson started it by hitting Taylor Hashman. With two outs, the Rebels executed a perfect hit-and-run. But Auburn lollygagged it in right field and Justin Fradejas threw it to second base instead of setting a relay up to the plate. That allowed Hashman to score from first on a single. Poor defensive play.

Nelson’s up to 72 pitches through three innings. Three runs, five hits, two walks, two hit batsmen. Can’t imagine he’s out there for much longer.

3-1 Ole Miss.
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5:45 p.m.: Auburn gets on the board on a double by Creede Simpson. Ole Miss right fielder Matt Snyder overran the ball as it skipped behind him. Ryan Jenkins, who was running on the 3-2 count, scored from first to cut the Ole Miss lead to 2-1.

Justin Hargett struck out looking to end the threat with Simpson on third.
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5:33 p.m.: Another jam for Cole Nelson. This time he can’t pitch out of it. Ole Miss loaded the bases on a double, an infield hit and walk before Tim Ferguson hit a two-run single to left to make it 2-0 Rebels.

Nelson prevents further damage by getting a ground out and a foul pop up , but he’s labored through two innings. He’s thrown 51 pitches so far. Would not be surprised if Auburn went to Slade Smith next inning.
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5:18 p.m.: A one-out Dan Gamache single leads to nothing. We’re scoreless going into the second.

Hunter Morris crushed a ball to the warning track in right-center for the third out. Thought it was gone. Definitely a homer in Plainsman Park. But there are no cheapies here in Regions Park.
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5:07 p.m.: Cole Nelson recovers nicely after allowing the first two batters to reach. After a brief visit from John Pawlowski, Nelson struck out Matt Smith and Matt Snyder. Hunter Morris got Auburn out of the jam with a nice sliding catch down the first base line in foul territory.

There’s some light rain out there, by the way. Not enough to delay anything, but enough to be annoying for the players I bet.
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UPDATE (4:59 p.m.) Cole Nelson hits a batter and walks another. Already action in the Auburn bullpen. It’s Slade Smith. Not an auspicious start.
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UPDATE (4:55 p.m.) And we’re underway. Check back for periodic updates.
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UPDATE (4:13 p.m.) We’ve got a new start time: 5:55 p.m. ET. The tarp is being rolled up. Of course, lightning could still be a factor.
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UPDATE (3:36 p.m.) Tarp back on the field. We’re not starting anytime soon.
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UPDATE (3:27 p.m.) Here’s Ole Miss’ lineup:

1. CF Tim Ferguson
2. 3B Zach Miller
3. RF Matt Smith
4. DH Matt Snyder
5. LF Taylor Hasman
6. 2B Alex Yarbrough
7. 1B Mike Snyder
8. SS Kevin Mort
9. C Miles Hamblin

RHP David Goforth

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UPDATE (3:20 p.m.) Estimated start time of 5 p.m. ET for the Auburn-Ole Miss game. It looks like the rain is wrapping around, though. There’s a chance it might not start by then.
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UPDATE (3:15 p.m.) They just took the tarp off the field. No game time announced yet. There’s still some lightning off in the distance.
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UPDATE (2:12 p.m.) Just got the word: Brian Fletcher (left hand) and Trent Mummey (right hamstring) will not be in the lineup today. Here’s the lineup:

1. RF Justin Fradejas
2. 3B Dan Gamache
3. LF Tony Caldwell
4. 1B Hunter Morris
5. DH Kevin Patt
6. C Ryan Jenkins
7. SS Greg McElroy
8. CF Creede Simpson
9. 2B Justin Hargett

LHP Cole Nelson

Also, it’s pouring out here. The entire front row of the press box watched their computers get soaked once the wind changed. Fortunately, I’m in the second row. If I had to guess, this game will not start on time.
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UPDATE (2:02 p.m.) Oh yeah, shameless Twitter plug here. Follow along for instant game updates. I’ll write more in depth on the blog as the game progresses.
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UPDATE (2:01 p.m.) Word in the press box is that CF Trent Mummey will not play today because of a hamstring injury. Nothing too serious, but it was enough that the Tigers didn’t want to risk playing him. With a wet field, that decision makes even more sense. I’d imagine Creede Simpson would start in his place.

As for Brian Fletcher, who got hit on a hand yesterday, Auburn hasn’t come to a decision. He’ll test things out before the coaches make any decision.
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Greetings once again from a soggy Hoover. The tarp is on the field because it’s raining. It looks like a small pocket of rain, so it probably won’t affect the game, which starts at 4 ET. Still, it’s coming down pretty good right now. We’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the rain medley of music they’re playing at Regions Park. Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain” is on now. Prince’s “Purple Rain” was on when I entered the stadium. As a Minnesotan, it put an extra hop in my step.

ANYWAY, it’s Auburn vs. Ole Miss in an elimination game today. Likely starting pitchers are Cole Nelson (6-3, 4.94 ERA) for Auburn and David Goforth (1-5, 8.27) for Ole Miss.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but I like the Tigers’ chances the deeper they go in this tournament. Everyone has exhausted their top pitchers, and Auburn has proven it can hammer mediocre pitching. If it’s a 15-14 game, I wouldn’t bet against the Tigers. We’ll see.

Back with more as it happens.

May 27, 2010

SEC baseball tournament: Pitching saves the day for Auburn in 3-1 win against South Carolina

HOOVER, Ala. — The Auburn baseball team has leaned on its bats all season, justifiably so considering the way the group has lit up the scoreboard.

But the much-maligned pitching staff saved the day Thursday, extending the second-seeded Tigers’ stay in the SEC tournament by shutting down South Carolina in an extra-inning 3-1 victory at Regions Park.

Grant Dayton and Austin Hubbard combined to give up one run in 12 innings for Auburn (40-18), which advanced to play Ole Miss in another elimination game Friday at 4 p.m. ET.

“So much credit has gone to the hitters, and rightfully so,” Auburn head coach John Pawlowski said. “They’ve done a great job and time and time again have bailed us out of a lot of tough situations. It’s just nice to see the pitchers that have been working so hard to see the reward.”

Center fielder Trent Mummey ended the stalemate with a two-run single in the 12th to give Auburn its first SEC tournament win since 2003 and eliminate the third-seeded Gamecocks (43-14).

“I think it’s great for our players’ mind set, knowing we can win in the postseason, win in the tournament,” Pawlowski said. “After last night, obviously the guys were frustrated, rightfully so. They came back today and it was an absolute battle today.”

The Tigers, who were stymied by Alabama’s Jimmy Nelson in a 7-1 loss Wednesday, were equally frustrated Thursday by South Carolina ace Blake Cooper, the league’s wins leader.

Auburn’s only run in the first 11 innings came on a fourth-inning solo homer by Creede Simpson, an injury replacement for left fielder Brian Fletcher, who left in the second after being hit on the hand by a pitch an inning earlier (X-rays were negative and he’s day-to-day).

But the Tigers’ pitchers kept things close. Dayton, a Sunday starter who emerged as Auburn’s most effective pitcher down the stretch, used Regions Park’s spacious outfield to his advantage by getting 13 fly ball outs, including a diving snag by right fielder Justin Fradejas that prevented extra bases early in the game.

“That might be No. 1 on SportsCenter,” Hubbard said.

The only run Dayton surrendered was a seventh-inning homer to catcher Brady Thomas that tied the game at 1-1.

Hubbard (5-2), Auburn’s closer, took it from there. The right-hander pitched the final 4 2/3 innings, striking out five. He pitched out a bases-loaded jam in the 10th, getting a soft tapper back to him to extend the game.

“When teams start putting guys on base, it’s tough to be in the dugout, it’s tough to continually watch that,” Pawlowski said. “When you have a guy out there like Hubbard, he’s probably one of the most mentally tough pitchers we have on the team. He’s able to put that out of his mind and make good pitches.”

Auburn’s offense finally rewarded him in the 12th. With the bases loaded and one out, Mummey worked a full count before lacing a single to center off Matt Price (3-1).

“He had to leave me something to hit with the bases loaded,” Mummey said. “I was looking to stay on top and shoot it up the middle.”

Pawlowski debated pulling Hubbard but let the one-time starter finish things off. It was the longest relief outing of Hubbard’s career, surpassing the four innings he threw in a win against LSU earlier this season.

“Hub was maxing out at that point,” Pawlowski said. “When we scored, I said we’re going to run him out there. I asked him how he felt and he said he felt fine, he wanted to finish it so we ran him back out there.”

“I had one more inning every time,” Hubbard said.

Auburn’s still waiting for its offense to break out. The Tigers, who lead the league in average, runs, homers and slugging percentage by wide margins, have scored only four runs in 21 innings of tournament play, something Pawlowski chalked up to facing strong pitching.

“To win at a high level, to win in the postseason and Regionals, Super Regionals and Omaha, those are the type of people you have to beat,” he said. “I told our team if you want challenges, this is what postseason play is all about. It’s about being challenged every night.”

SEC tournament: Reactions, notes from Auburn’s 3-1 win against South Carolina

Just wrapped up post-game interviews. Here are a few quotes and notes:

JOHN PAWLOWSKI, head coach

(In a strange turn, you won this game with pitching)
“So much credit has gone to the hitters, rightfully so. They’ve done a great job and time and time again have bailed us out of a lot of tough situations. it’s just nice to see the pitchers that have been working so hard and to see the reward. You look at a game like today, if we didn’t have that type of pitching performance, it certainly would have been a different game. Proud of those guys. They’ve stepped up a number of times and obviously this was a huge situation for them.”

(How happy is the team to still be alive in the tournament)
“I think the most excited the guys were when we met in the hallway there and I told them that we play in the afternoon tomorrow so they don’t have to have a 6 a.m. wakeup call so they were pretty excited about that. Two days in a row of playing at 9:30.”

(How important was winning a tournament game?)
“I think it’s really important. I think it’s great for our players’ mindset, too, knowing we can win in postseason, win in the tournament. After last night, obviously the guys were frustrated, rightfully so. They came back today and it was an absolute battle today. But I think it gives our team some confidence knowing we can play at a high level in the postseason.”

AUSTIN HUBBARD, closer

(How much did you have left)
“I had one more inning every time, I felt like. I had a feeling that I was getting close to the end, but I knew they had faith in me to go out there, especially when we went out there and scored those two runs.”

(On the defense)
“(Justin) Fradejas made a catch in the fourth or fifth inning that might be No. 1 on SportsCenter. Defense is a huge part of that too. (Ryan) Jenkins, I don’t know how he’s doing right now, catching 12 innings. Blocking 8,000 sliders in a row from me. I think he said he was going to get a cookie cake.”

GRANT DAYTON, starting pitcher

(How about that pitcher’s duel?)
“Yeah, that was a lot of fun. I was able to go out there and just pitch like I know I can and I was just able to use my fastball and everything went good. It was a lot of fun to be a part of that, and when I came out and watched Hub come in and just fill the strike zone and everything was going good. We were able to stay in the ballgame long enough to put some runs on the board and win.”

TRENT MUMMEY, center fielder

(On his game-winning hit in the 12th)
“That inning, the pitcher was throwing a lot of balls and leaving a lot of his fastballs up and couldn’t locate his slider. And we got bases loaded and he couldn’t locate his slider against me and was leaving his fastball up, so I knew with 3-2 he had to leave me something to hit with the bases loaded. And he didn’t leave his fastball up. I was looking to stay on top and shoot it up the middle.”

Also of note …

  • X-rays on Brian Fletcher‘s hand were negative. He got hit by a pitch in the first inning on his hand, a blow softened by a protective pad he wears.
  • Mummey had cramps in the final inning. He should be fine.
  • Hubbard had the longest relief outing of his career, going 4 2/3 innings.
  • Pawlowski said Auburn will likely start LHP Cole Nelson (6-3, 4.94 ERA) or RHP Slade Smith (3-0, 4.68) tomorrow at 4 ET. The Tigers play the loser of the Alabama-Ole Miss winner’s bracket game.

Hoover Day 2: Auburn 3, South Carolina , FINAL

UPDATE (12:50 p.m.) And that’s a wrap. Auburn wins 3-1. Here’s the quickie story.

Austin Hubbard has his longest outing this year, pitching 4 2/3 shutout innings for the win.

Tigers play the loser of Alabama-Ole Miss tomorrow at 4 p.m. ET.

We’ll be back with post-game reactions in a little bit.
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UPDATE (12:40 p.m.) Tony Caldwell struck out swinging to end the inning. Auburn’s up 3-1 heading into the bottom of the 12th. Austin Hubbard is still on the mound, despite having thrown 3 2/3 innings.

South Carolina has the top of its order coming up.
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UPDATE (12:37 p.m.) Auburn finally breaks through on Trent Mummey‘s bases loaded single. That makes it 3-1. Tigers are still rallying, with runners on second and third with one out.
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UPDATE (12:21 p.m.) Another jam, another escape. This time a single and wild pitch put Austin Hubbard up against it. He got a fly out and another out on a bunt attempt to send it to the 12th.

Hubbard’s pitched 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball. It’s his second-longest outing this year.
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UPDATE (12:12 p.m.) Auburn had a chance, getting a two-out double from Tony Caldwell on a ball the right fielder misplayed. But Dan Gamache struck out swinging to end the threat.

Hubbard still on the mound. He’s already thrown 2 2/3 innings. Nobody has warmed up lately for the Tigers.
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UPDATE (12:03 p.m.) Austin Hubbard pitches out of a bases loaded jam, getting Adrian Morales to tap out back to him for the third out.

Due up for Auburn: Creede Simpson, Hunter Morris, Tony Caldwell.
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UPDATE (11:53 a.m.) Casey McElroy flied out deep to right. That was about the only threat for Auburn. We’re heading to the bottom of the 10th. Hubbard still pitching for the Tigers.
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UPDATE (11:43 a.m.) Free baseball! Austin Hubbard set the Gamecocks down in order in the ninth. Three of his five outs have been Ks.

Casey McElroy, Justin Hargett and Justin Fradejas due up for the Tigers. My prediction: some bunts are coming.
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UPDATE (11:37 a.m.) Auburn goes down quietly in the ninth. Strikeout by pinch hitter Tony Caldwell, ground out by Dan Gamache, strikeout by Ryan Jenkins.

The SEC’s top hitting team has two runs through 18 innings in the tournament. One the product of two bunts and another on a home run by a replacement player.
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UPDATE (11:30 a.m.) Auburn pitched out of a jam in the eighth. Austin Hubbard relieved Grant Dayton with one out and a runner on second. He got a line out and a strike out to send things to the ninth tied at 1-1.

Dayton pitched 7 1/3 innings, gave up one run on five hits. He struck out four.
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UPDATE (11:18 a.m.) South Carolina pulled Blake Cooper after 7 2/3 innings to get a lefty-lefty matchup with reliever Michael Roth against Hunter Morris and a runner on first. It worked. Morris flied out to center, ending the threat.

We’re tied at 1-1 through 7 1/2. Grant Dayton‘s still in the game for Auburn.
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UPDATE (11:09 a.m.) Grant Dayton finally left a pitch up. South Carolinan’s No. 7 hitter Brady Thomas launched it out to right for a solo home run to lead off the seventh. It was his eighth of the year and knotted things up at 1-1.

Dayton got the next three batters in order to send things into the eighth.
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UPDATE (10:58 a.m.) Grant Dayton is still cruising, taking advantage of the spacious outfield in Regions Park. He got three fly outs in the sixth. That’s 12 fly ball outs today for Dayton. He has four strikeouts and has induced two ground outs.

He’s thrown 79 pitches.
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UPDATE (10:53 a.m.) No runs for Auburn. Hunter Morris flied out to the warning track for, by my count, the 17th time in this tournament. The fences are 340 to the corners here. Plainsman Park is 331, I believe, to right. That’s a big difference.

Blake Cooper‘s up to five strikeouts for South Carolina.
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UPDATE (10:48 a.m.) That’s five scoreless innings for Dayton, who holds a 1-0 lead. He’s given up three hits so far. Two are bunt singles by Whit Merrifield, who didn’t do anything once he reached base.

That’s 14 straight scoreless innings for the Gamecocks.
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UPDATE (10:38 a.m.) 1-2-3 fourth for Grant Dayton, who is up to four strikeouts. The Gamecocks have not scored in 13 innings in this tournament.
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UPDATE (10:30 a.m.): Auburn got on the board thanks to an injury replacement. Creede Simpson, who replaced Brian Fletcher (hand), clubbed a solo home run to left, just inside the foul pole.

It’s Simpson’s fourth home run this year and his first since April 4 against Alabama.
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UPDATE (10:24 a.m.) Grant Dayton pitches in and out of a third-inning jam, putting runners at the corners before getting Adrian Morales to fly out to center.

Dayton’s allowed two hits, walked two and hit one in three innings, but he hasn’t allowed a run.
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UPDATE (10:12 a.m.) Still nothing for Auburn. Justin Fradejas singled but was wiped out on a double play ball by Mummey.

South Carolina’s Blake Cooper has given up three hits in three scoreless innings. He has one strikeout.
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UPDATE (10:02 a.m.) Big loss for Auburn. Brian Fletcher just left the game. He was hit on the hand by a pitch in the first inning and stayed in the game for a little while. Bruised hand is the official diagnosis. That’s 20 home runs and 70 RBIs leaving the lineup. Not a good sign for the Tigers.

Creede Simpson replaced him in left.
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UPDATE (10:00 a.m.) No scoring for Auburn in the second. Dan Gamache crushed a ball that would have been a home run at Plainsman Park. Instead South Carolina right fielder Whit Merrifield made a running catch at the base of the wall to rob Gamache of extra bases.

That’s two homers Gamache would have this week at a smaller ballpark. He hit one off the center field wall yesterday.
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UPDATE (9:54 a.m.) Justin Fradejas makes things adventurous in right field for Auburn, but he made a spectacular diving catch on a ball hit near the warning track by Christian Walker in the first.

Fradejas might have misjudged the ball initially, but backed up and dove, making an extended diving catch. We’re still scoreless after the first.
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UPDATE (9:44 a.m.) And we’re underway. No scoring for Auburn, although the Tigers put two runners on base in the first before Kevin Patterson flied out to left.

Brian Fletcher got hit by a pitch on his hand. It looked painful but he stayed in the game. That might be something to watch as the day progresses.
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UPDATE (8:54 a.m.) We’ve got lineups. Offensive stats are average-home runs-RBIs.

AUBURN (39-18)

1. RF Justin Fradejas (.354-1-26)
2. CF Trent Mummey (.376-15-45)
3. LF Brian Fletcher (.359-20-70)
4. 1B Hunter Morris (.392-20-67)
5. DH Kevin Patterson (.318-16-31)
6. 3B Dan Gamache (.403-7-34)
7. C Ryan Jenkins (.367-7-37)
8. SS Casey McElroy (.330-6-37)
9. 2B Justin Hargett (.323-2-32)

LHP Grant Dayton (8-2, 4.61 ERA, 56 K, 16 BB)

One change from yesterday: Gamache and McElroy swapped spots.

SOUTH CAROLINA (43-14)

1. RF Whit Merrifield (.326-12-36)
2. CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (.368-9-43)
3. 1B Christian Walker (.315-6-39)
4. DH Parker Bangs (.286-3-18)
5. 3B Adrian Morales (.280-5-45)
6. LF Adam Matthews (.321-7-29)
7. C Brady Thomas (.337-7-27)
8. SS Bobby Haney (.267-3-21)
9. 2B Scott Wingo (.273-9-28)

RHP Blake Cooper (10-1, 3.08 ERA, 82 K, 29 BB)

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UPDATE (8:42 a.m.) Here’s the bracket again for those who are interested. The winner of today’s game would play the loser of the Alabama-Ole Miss game Friday at 4 p.m. ET.

Also of note: Auburn will be the visitors today. The Tigers are wearing their blue uniforms.
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We’re back for more SEC baseball tournament action here in Hoover, still a good hour and 15 minutes before second-seeded Auburn (39-18) plays third-seeded South Carolina (43-14).

After yesterday’s traffic catastrophe, I’m glad to report there were no traffic problems getting to the stadium today. Barely even waited once I got off the highway. Of course, I arrived to and empty stadium and press box.

ANYWAY, I’m here to live blog Auburn’s game against South Carolina. Winner keeps a shred of hope alive. Loser goes home.

The teams have something in common. A hot pitcher shut them down in the first round. As we wrote on this blog, Alabama’s Jimmy Nelson was fantastic against Auburn. The Gamecocks had their own problems against Ole Miss’ Drew Pomeranz.

(Fun fact from Wednesday that speaks volumes about the SEC’s depth: the lower-seeded team won every game. LSU beat Florida and Vanderbilt beat Arkansas in the second session.)

Auburn will send Grant Dayton (8-2, 4.61 ERA) to the mound against South Carolina’s Blake Cooper (10-1, 3.08). Dayton gave up five runs in 7 1/3 innings against the Gamecocks in Auburn’s 10-6 win against South Carolina earlier this year. Cooper gave up four runs in seven innings in an 11-5 win against Auburn.

The Gamecocks won two of three in the teams’ only series in Auburn.

I’ll be back with more throughout the morning, so check back. And follow the blog on Twitter.

May 26, 2010

Alabama’s Jimmy Nelson silences Auburn’s bats in first round of SEC tournament

HOOVER, Ala. — The SEC’s top hitting team was no match for the conference’s hottest pitcher.

Alabama’s Jimmy Nelson threw his third straight complete game, baffling an Auburn offense that tore up SEC pitching all year in a 7-1 win in the first round of the SEC tournament at Regions Park.

Nelson needed only 97 pitches to make short work of the Tigers, scattering five hits and striking out six.

“Nelson was outstanding,” Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. “Throwing 97 pitches against an offensive team like Auburn just does not happen that often.”

Seventh-seeded Alabama (35-21) advances to play sixth-seeded Ole Miss on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. ET. The streaking Tide has won six straight.

No. 13 Auburn (39-18), the second seed, will try to fight its way through the loser’s bracket, starting with an elimination game against third-seeded South Carolina on Thursday morning at 10:30.

Left-hander Grant Dayton (8-2, 4.61 ERA) will be on the mound for the Tigers against South Carolina’s Blake Cooper (10-1, 3.08).

“We’ve done a good job of rebounding from pretty much every loss this year,” Auburn first baseman Hunter Morris said. “And that comes with a maturity level. … You’ve got to have a short-term memory to be successful in baseball.”

Nelson (8-2), a 6-foot-6 righty, cruised against an Auburn lineup that hit .354 during the regular season. He routinely pitched ahead in the count and retired the leadoff batter in all but one inning.

In his last three outings, Nelson has pitched 27 innings, allowed five runs and struck out 24.

“I think it’s the best stretch I have had so far in my career,” Nelson said.

Auburn resorted to small ball for its only run, scoring on a safety squeeze by Justin Fradejas in the third for a 1-0 lead. Trent Mummey got to third on a double and an error, but he was stranded there when Nelson struck out Brian Fletcher swinging.

It was Auburn’s last real scoring chance. The Tigers didn’t get another runner past second base.

“Early in the game, you look and evaluate a pitcher’s stuff,” Auburn head coach John Pawlowski said. “And I thought his stuff was really good, so I thought it was going to be a low-scoring game.

“I thought we could at least get some momentum. Against a guy who was throwing the ball really well, you’ve got to try some different things. Unfortunately we weren’t able to manufacture many runs today.”

Alabama, meanwhile, got better offensively as the game wore on. The Crimson Tide grabbed a 2-1 lead on Andrew Miller’s two-run, two-out single in the fourth off Auburn starter Cory Luckie (6-4), who pitched well in defeat.

Luckie struck out six in 6 2/3 innings, leaving after giving up an RBI triple to Taylor Dugas in the seventh that made it 3-1. Only one of Luckie’s three runs were earned.

The Crimson Tide scored four runs in the final two innings off Auburn relievers, but it didn’t need them.

Nelson finished things off by retiring the All-SEC heart of Auburn’s lineup in the ninth, setting down Fletcher, Morris and Kevin Patterson in order. Those three finished the day 1-for-12.

Auburn hadn’t scored fewer than two runs in an SEC game since being shut out at South Carolina on March 27.

“You can’t expect our guys to score 10 runs every game,” Luckie said. “We are going to have some bad games, but we are going to put it behind us and be ready for tomorrow.”