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May 31, 2012

Auburn stumbles to 15th place finish at NCAA Championships despite big performances from Barber, Bozzelli

Photo by Todd Van Emst

A lack of depth in the lineup sent the No. 4 Auburn men’s golf team home early from the NCAA Championships at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., on Thursday.

Both Blayne Barber and Dominic Bozzelli did plenty enough to get the Tigers into the eight-team match play tournament that starts today. Barber finished seventh at even-par, and Bozzelli finished in a tie for 13th at 2-over.

But the other three golfers combined to shoot 26-over, lifting Auburn’s score to 28-over for the week and a 15th-place finish.

Alabama, UCLA, Texas, California, San Diego State, Washington, Oregon and Kent State advanced to the match-play tournament.

“We got off to a good start in the first round, but the last two days we just didn’t play well,” said Clinard. “We didn’t get a lot of production from our three, four and five guys. Blayne and Dominic played great as expected, and the other guys just didn’t have their A-game this week.”

Barber’s performance capped off one of the best seasons an Auburn golfer has ever played. Playing consistent golf all year, Barber shot a 70.75 average to break the Tigers’ 36-year-old scoring record, set by Buddy Gardner in 1976. He also won back-to-back tournaments, the first time in school history that a golfer has accomplished the feat.

As a team, Auburn won three tournaments, stayed in the national top-5 all the way to the end and will likely earn Barber and Bozzelli both All-America honors.

“It is probably the best year that Auburn golf has ever had,” said Clinard. “In having three wins and only finishing one tournament outside of the top three before this week out of 12 tournaments is pretty special.”

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Auburn falters badly in the second round of the NCAA Championships

Photo by Todd Van Emst

A disastrous second round at the Riviera Country Club may have knocked Auburn out of the running for a spot in the match play portion of the NCAA Championships in Pacific Palisades, Calif. on Wednesday.

Ranked fourth in the country, Auburn entered the day in a tie for second place, but the Tigers shot a 15-over-par 299 in the second round of the NCAA Championships to fall into a tie for 15th place.

“We had five doubles, a triple and a quad so it is pretty tough to come back, especially on this golf course because there are just not that many birdies out there,” said Auburn head coach Nick Clinard.

Auburn still has a chance to advance to the final eight teams, which qualify for a match-play tournament that decides the eventual NCAA Champion. The Tigers are three strokes behind Illinois, Kent State, Florida, USC and California for that eighth and final spot in the match-play tournament.

For a brief moment, Dominic Bozzelli led the NCAA Championships at 4-under after opening the round with two birdies, but a quadruple bogey on No. 12 derailed his round. Bozzelli is now tied for 16th individually.

The Tigers’ top player, All-American Blayne Barber, is tied for 10th after shooting a 3-over-par 74 in the second round.

“The wind is picking up pretty good right now (for the second round afternoon wave),” said Clinard. “Hopefully, we got our bad round out of the way today, and if we go out tomorrow and shoot even par or 1-over, we may have a chance.”

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May 29, 2012

Auburn men’s golf in a tie for second after the first round of the NCAA Championships

The Auburn men’s golf team will have no problems getting back into the NCAA Championships after a solid opening day on the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

A little more than a week after falling behind on the first day of the NCAA Regional, Auburn shot a 4-over 288 in Tuesday’s opening round to settle into a tie for second place with No. 19 Florida, three shots off of the lead established by Alabama at 1-over.

“We played well in spurts,” said Auburn head coach Nick Clinard. “We got off to a decent start and through 10-11 holes, we were playing very well, and there are some tough holes from 12-15, and we hit some pretty poor shots off the tee and let a few go.”

Auburn only has to finish in the top eight after the first three rounds of stroke play, but the field is pretty tight with two rounds to go.

Behind the Tigers and Gators, both Oklahoma and UCLA are a stroke back, and five teams — Texas, North Florida, Florida State, Central Florida and Iowa — are all another stroke back, setting up a tough final push over the next two rounds.

Blayne Barber and Dominic Bozzelli each shot 2-under 69’s to lead Auburn, and the pair are tied for fourth individually. UCLA’s Anton Arboneda leads at 4-under.

“It was a great round and was very solid,” said Barber. “I played well. I didn’t get into too much trouble. I made a few par putts on the front to keep the round going, and I was able to stay bogey-free and birdied two par 5s.”

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Ryan Tella named to All-SEC second team

Photo by Todd Van Emst

Ryan Tella, Auburn’s sophomore center fielder, was the only Auburn representative named to the All-SEC baseball teams, released Tuesday by the conference.

Tella finished fourth in the SEC in batting average at .360, fourth in hits (85), sixth in on-base percentage (.448) and tied for third with 17 stolen bases to help lead a Tigers offense that led the SEC in hitting, on-base percentage, hits, triples and stolen bases.

Asked to play one of the most important positions on the team in center field, Tella led Auburn with five outfield assists, and even though the Tigers struggled in SEC play, Tella finished seventh in the league with a .333 batting average.

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2012 All-SEC Baseball Team

SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR –  Raph Rhymes, LSU 
SEC PITCHER OF THE YEAR –
Chris Stratton, Mississippi State 
SEC FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR –
Austin Cousino, Kentucky
SEC SCHOLAR-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR –
Michael Roth, South Carolina  
SEC COACH OF THE YEAR –
Gary Henderson, Kentucky

FIRST TEAM
1B – Christian Walker, South Carolina
2B – Alex Yarbrough, Ole Miss
3B – Matt Reynolds, Arkansas
SS – Anthony Gomez, Vanderbilt
C – Mike Zunino, Florida
OF – Raph Rhymes, LSU
OF – Preston Tucker, Florida
OF – Taylor Dugas, Alabama
DH/UTL – Brian Johnson, Florida
P – Chris Stratton, Mississippi State
P – Kevin Gausman, LSU
RP – Steven Rodriguez, Florida

SECOND TEAM
1B – Matt Snyder, Ole Miss
2B – Bo Bigham, Arkansas
3B – Curt Powell, Georgia
SS – Nolan Fontana, Florida
C – Luke Maile, Kentucky
OF – Austin Cousino, Kentucky
OF – Ryan Tella, Auburn
OF – Mason Katz, LSU
DH – Drew Steckenrider, Tennessee
P – Alex Wood, Georgia
P – Corey Littrell, Kentucky
P – Bobby Wahl, Ole Miss
RP – Matt Price, South Carolina

ALL FRESHMAN TEAM
1B – A.J. Reed, Kentucky
2B – Will Maddox, Tennessee
3B – Josh Tobias, Florida
SS – Joey Pancake, South Carolina
C – Grayson Greiner, South Carolina
OF – Austin Cousino, Kentucky
OF – Tanner English, South Carolina
OF – Hunter Cole, Georgia
OF – Ben Moore, Alabama
DH/UTL – A.J. Reed, Kentucky
P – Aaron Nola, LSU
P – Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt
RP – Jonathan Holder, Mississippi State

ALL DEFENSIVE TEAM
P – Ryan Eades, LSU
P – Kendall Graveman, Mississippi State
P – Michael Roth, South Carolina
1B -Dominic Ficociello, Arkansas
2B – Alex Yarbrough, Ole Miss
SS – Nolan Fontana, Florida
3B – Matt Reynolds, Arkansas
C – Mike Zunino, Florida
OF – Evan Marzilli, South Carolina
OF – Taylor Dugas, Alabama
OF – Austin Cousino, Kentucky

May 28, 2012

The Week in Review: Big Cats, baseball ends another season and Dufner’s still on a roll

Photo by Todd Van Emst

Before everybody heads out to their Memorial Day cookouts — and honestly, most of you are probably on the grill or in the pool already — it’s time to take a look at the week that was in Auburn athletics.

Now that the summer is fully upon us, the tidbits are getting a little less substantial, but there’s still plenty of noteworthy news floating around the athletic complexes at the Plains, beginning, of course, with Auburn’s initial summer recruiting push at Big Cat Weekend.

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The Week in Review

  • Auburn landed one commitment on Big Cat Weekend — tight end Arshad Jackson offered his verbal — but there were a couple of awfully big fish that Tigers fans should pay attention to as the recruiting cycle continues. Defensive tackle Montravius Adams, a five-star tackle from Dooly County High in Vienna, Ga., and possibly the best defensive tackle prospect in the country, told AuburnUndercover.com that the Tigers would be a finalist for his services. Linebacker Rueben Foster, the No. 2 prospect in the country and a recent transfer to Auburn High, was also on the Plains, according to commit Carl Lawson’s Twitter account.
  • Interesting to see Reese Dismukes already added to the Rimington Award watch list. Given Auburn’s inconsistent line play last year, the Tigers have to be happy about having an anchor in the middle of the line who has already played and played well enough to earn national recognition. Filling the spots around him will be key.
  • In retrospect, Auburn’s SEC Tournament in Hoover went about as expected. The Tigers got beat by two of the SEC’s best teams in Florida and South Carolina and squeaked out a win over Georgia to avoid going winless. For Auburn to make a move up the standings next year, the Tigers have to improve their talent base. None of Auburn’s pitchers have overwhelming stuff, and the lineup needs to do a better job of producing runs. Playing small ball and getting on base can only get a team so far. Somebody has to bring those runners across the plate.
  • Even though the projections said Auburn was a bubble team at times last week, the overwhelming feeling in Hoover was that Auburn was a longshot to have an NCAA Tournament berth. With an RPI of 56 and teams across the country stealing berths — for instance, Missouri won the Big 12 Tournament despite a mediocre season — the Tigers always faced a long shot to get in.
  • Former Auburn golfer Jason Dufner is on one heck of a roll this season. After winning the New Orleans Open and the Byron Nelson his last two times out of the gate — he took a break to get married — Dufner finished second at the Colonial to move up to eighth in the World Golf Rankings. For those of you who watch PGA golf on a regular basis, keep an eye on Dufner, a former walk-on at Auburn who seems to be coming into his own.
  • Basketball players Willy Kouassi and Bernard Morena have chosen to transfer to Kennesaw State, according to a report from Al.com. Given Morena’s lack of buzz and the two players’ desire to stay together, transferring to another big school was always a long-shot. At Kennesaw State, both players will likely get plenty of playing time.
  • Tigers sophomore Marta Sanz was named to the NCAA honorable mention All-America team for her performance as the best player on the women’s golf team this season. Sanz averaged 74.3 strokes per-round, posted six top-20 finishes and two top-fives to help Auburn win the SEC Tournament.
  • Auburn’s track and field team had a good showing in Jacksonville at the NCAA East Preliminary. Harry Adams (100/200), Keenan Brock (100/200) and Marcus Rowland (100/200) all pulled the double in the sprints to qualify for the NCAA Championships at Drake in Iowa in June. Women’s sprinter Kal Selvon also qualified for the double. In addition, shot putter Stephen Saenz, the sprint relay, high jumper Maya Pressly, 400-runner CeCe Williams and Saenz again in the discus all qualified.
  • Former swimmer Erica Meissner was awarded the prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and plans to attend Cambridge University in the fall.

 

Auburn baseball misses out on NCAA Tournament

Photo by Todd Van Emst

An up-and-down season for the Auburn baseball team ended on Monday when the Tigers weren’t selected for the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, the sixth time in the last seven years that Auburn has missed out on college baseball’s ultimate goal.

Thought to be a bubble team before last weekend’s SEC Tournament, Auburn (31-28) probably would have had to win the SEC Tournament to make the final bracket.

Ranked No. 56 in the RPI, the Tigers were not mentioned as a bubble team during ESPNU’s NCAA Selection Show or as one of the final five teams out.

After starting SEC play 6-3, Auburn was swept by Alabama and Georgia, a pair of SEC teams that did not make the final cut, although eight SEC teams did make the bracket. Florida, LSU and South Carolina are all top-8 seeds in the tournament.

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May 26, 2012

Big Cat Weekend lands commitment from tight end Arshad Jackson

Arshad Jackson, a 6-6, 239-pound tight end from Lovejoy High in Hampton, Ga., has decided to commit to Auburn for the 2013 class as part of the Tigers’ annual Big Cat Weekend festivities.

By landing Jackson’s verbal commitment, Auburn now has 10 commitments for the 2013 class, and more could be on the way as the Tigers wrap up Big Cat Weekend.

AuburnUndercover.com and Rivals.com reported the news first.

Jackson, a key player on a Lovejoy team that went all the way to the Class 5A state final last year before falling to Tucker, had offers from more than 10 schools, including Arkansas, South Carolina, Missouri, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

A three-star prospect, Jackson caught 16 passes for 151 yards and four touchdowns last year.

For a list of Auburn’s commitments for the 2013 class so far, take a look below. Ratings are by Rivals/Scout/247Sports, and don’t forget to follow the blog on Twitter and Facebook.

Auburn 2013 Commits

  • Jarrad Davis, LB, 6-2, 210, Kingsland, Ga. (Camden County), NR/NR/3
  • Jimmy Hutchinson, P, 6-2, 175, Kennesaw, Ga. (Harrison High) NR* — top-ranked kicker in class
  • Arshad Jackson, TE, 6-6, 239, Hampton, Ga. (Lovejoy High), 3/
  • Jeremy Johnson, QB, 6-5, 215, Montgomery, Ala. (Carver High), 3/4/4
  • Trey Johnson, LB, 6-1, 220, Lawrenceville, Ga. (Central Gwinnett High), 4-star/4/4
  • Carl Lawson, DE, 6-3, 245, Alpharetta, Ga. (Milton High) 4-star/4/4
  • Dee Liner, DE, 6-2, 255, Muscle Shoals (Ala.) High, 4-star/5/4
  • Kamryn Melton, DB, 5-11, 176, Dothan (Ala.) High, 3-star/3/3
  • Earnest Robinson, WR, 6-3, 200, Pinson Valley (Ala.) High, 4-star/4/4
  • Cameron Toney, LB, 6-3, 225, Huntsville (Ala.) High, 3-star/3/4

May 25, 2012

Big Cat Weekend IV: The Recruiting Push Continues

Photo by Todd Van Emst

Beyond the end of the SEC Baseball Tournament, the last weekend in May always means the same thing. Big Cat Weekend, Auburn’s annual summer recruiting kickoff that features dozens of prospects visiting the Plains at the same time.

Big Cat Weekend, the brainchild of Auburn recruiting coordinator Curtis Luper, usually brings in a commitment or two during the weekend itself and then produces a bunch more in the weeks to come. Last year, offensive tackle Shane Callahan committed during Big Cat, and Ricardo Louis and Ricky Parks committed shortly after.

Another star-studded (literally, at least in terms of recruiting stars) list of players will be in Auburn this weekend for the event. The recruiting gurus over at AuburnUndercover.com, AuburnSports.com and Inside the Auburn Tigers will be all over the entire weekend and its results.

Here’s a list of the reported attendees, as per the good folks at the recruiting sites. For more — and  to keep an eye on possible commitments this weekend — follow the blog on Twitter and Facebook.

Five-stars

DT Montravius Adams, Dooly County HS, Ga.

* – DE Dee Liner, Muscle Shoals HS, Ala.

Four-stars

RB Tyshon Dye, Elbert County HS, Ga.

RB Ryan Green, St. Pete Catholic High, Fla.

* – QB Jeremy Johnson, Carver HS, Montgomery, Ala.

* – LB Trey Johnson, Central Gwinnett HS, Lawrenceville, Ga.

* – DE Carl Lawson, Milton HS, Alpharetta, Ga.

DE Naim Mustafaa, Alpharetta HS, Ga.

DB Jalen Ramsey, Brentwood Academy, Nashville, Tenn.

*  – WR Earnest Robinson, Pinson Valley HS, Ala.

ATH Jason Smith, McGill-Toolen, Mobile, Ala.

Three-stars

TE Arshad Jackson, Lovejoy HS, Ga.

WR Lemond Johnson, Carol City HS, Miami, Fla.

WR Isaiah Jones, Milton HS, Fla.

* – DB Kamryn Melton, Dothan HS (Ala.)

DB Cameron Sutton, Jonesboro HS, Ga.

Two-stars

DB Jonathan Cook, Spanish Fort HS, Ala.

Not rated

* – K Jimmy Hutchinson, Harrison HS, Kennesaw, Ga.

* – Already committed to Auburn’s 2013 class

Class of 2014

S Ronnie Clark, Calera HS, Ala.

DE Rashaan Evans, Auburn HS, Ala.

LB Shaun Hamilton, Carver HS, Montgomery, Ala.

RB Deven Sullivan, Muscle Shoals HS, Ala.

ATH Blaise Taylor, Auburn HS, Ala.

QB Deshaun Watson, Gainesville HS, Ga. – Committed to Clemson

RB/DB Chris White, St. Pete Catholic High, Fla.

Reese Dismukes named to Rimington Award watch list

Auburn sophomore Reese Dismukes has been named to the spring watch list for the 2012 Rimington Award, annually given to the nation’s top center.

Part of the Tigers’ high-profile 2011 signing class, Dismukes enrolled early and won the starting job at center as a freshman. Playing in the center of an offensive line forced to constantly rotate players due to injury, Dismukes started all 13 games for the Tigers at center as a freshman.

A 6-3, 300-pounder in the middle of the line, Dismukes was named to the FWAA Freshman All-America team following the 2011 season. He also earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team and the CBS Sports Freshman All-America team.

Dismukes will be one of three players on Auburn’s offensive line with starting experience. Guards John Sullen and Chad Slade also started in 2011, although Slade could be used at tackle in the fall.

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May 24, 2012

South Carolina eliminates Auburn from SEC Tournament; Tigers await NCAA Regional fate

Photo by Todd Van Emst

Auburn’s short run at the SEC Tournament ended in a 5-3 loss to a fresh South Carolina team that was able to throw its ace, Michael Roth, and closer, Matt Price, for the entire game.

Now the Tigers have to wait until Monday to find out if they have earned an NCAA Tournament spot.

For a look at how tomorrow’s story starts, take a look at this glance.

HOOVER, Ala. — A victory over a top-flight SEC team was exactly what Auburn needed to polish its postseason credentials before leaving the SEC Tournament.

But the Tigers failed to take advantage of a few key late-inning opportunities in Thursday’s 5-3 loss to second-seeded South Carolina in an SEC Tournament elimination game.

Now Auburn (31-28) has to wait until Monday’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show to learn their fate.

“It’s definitely not the season we were planning for back in January,” senior pitcher Derek Varnadore said. “We’ve come a long way, we’ve had a lot of challenges along the way, but I’d really like to see this team in a regional.”

Auburn’s chances at an NCAA Regional berth are slim. Unofficially, the Tigers were ranked 59th in RPI after the loss to the Gamecocks Thursday, and a 10th-place finish in the SEC have hurt Auburn’s profile after opening the conference schedule with three straight series wins.

“If it’s meant to be, it is, but I think our team is a good, quality baseball team,” Auburn coach John Pawlowski said.

Here’s the link to the full story on the Ledger-Enquirer’s website: South Carolina eliminates Auburn.

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