AUBURN, Ala. — The monotony of batting cages, bullpen sessions and endless fielding practice is over.
“Opening Day is always exciting,” fifth-year Auburn baseball coach John Pawlowski said. “They have seen enough of each other. They’re tired of each other. It’s kind of like Groundhog Day all over.”
The Tigers begin a four-game set with Maine today at Plainsman Park at 4 p.m. ET, the start of a scheduled 16-game stretch of non-conference action before hosting Vanderbilt in the SEC opener March 15.
Auburn was 31-28 last year, thanks to an SEC-leading .304 batting average and second-team all-SEC outfielder Ryan Tella (.360). The junior is joined by other top hitters in senior outfielder Cullen Wacker (.350), senior first baseman Garrett Cooper (.324) and junior shortstop Dan Glevenyak (.319).
“We return so much of our offense from last year over to this year,” Tella said, “and we know the expectations that we need to bring out every weekend – especially on the weekends, but also compete well in the weekday games.”
The pitching scuffled last spring, but Opening Day starter Daniel Koger, a lanky sophomore left-hander, has big-time promises for change.
“I think it is a very powerful pitching group altogether,” Koger said. “This is seriously one of the best pitching staffs I’ve seen around baseball in a long time, so I think the pitching is going to be a lot better than most people expect.
“It is definitely something that was my goal,” Koger said, of getting the Opening Day nod. “Going into the offseason, I wanted to be on the Friday night stage.”
The SEC coaches, in a preseason poll, tabbed Auburn to finish in last place among SEC West squads.
“I haven’t talked to the team about external expectations,” Pawlowski said. “That’s something, when we get to the SEC season, we will talk about. We use that as motivation. The only thing we’re focused on is the internal expectations. People can write whatever they want, vote whatever way they want, but when it comes down to it, you have an opportunity to play the game and that’s the greatest thing.”
Auburn certainly hopes to make its fourth straight SEC tournament, though that’s not even close to the ultimate goals.
“The last three years, we have had the chance to go to the SEC Tournament, but there is more out there for this group,” Pawlowski said. “They know that. They know our expectations.”
Every game this season will either be televised, or available to view on AuburnSports.com via a subscription package.