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March 22, 2013

AU faces another major challenge


AUBURN | The Tigers were swept at home by No. 2 Vanderbilt last weekend, but the time for fretting over an 0-3 start to the league season has ended.

Auburn (15-6, 0-3) at No. 3 LSU (19-2, 2-1)
WHEN: Friday (7 p.m.), Saturday (6:30 p.m.), Sunday (1 p.m.)
WHERE: Alex Box Stadium, Baton Rouge
ON THE AIR: TV - Cox Sports on Sunday; Radio - Auburn IMG Sports Network
LHP Daniel Koger (0-1, 3.49) vs. RHP Aaron Nola (2-0, 3.41)
LHP Mike O'Neal (4-1, 1.99) vs. RHP Ryan Eades (4-0, 1.69)
TBA vs. LHP Cody Glenn (3-1, 2.25)
NOTES OF INTEREST: Auburn is 25-44 in games against LSU in Baton Rouge The Tigers have won each of their last three series against the Bayou Bengals and is 6-6 against them under John Pawlowski The last time Auburn won more than three consecutive series against LSU was 1979-82 The Tigers' last three SEC series (dating back to 2012) have come against a team ranked in the top 3 Auburn's last series win over a top-5 team came against LSU in 2010.
The task this weekend may be more difficult.

Auburn travels to Baton Rouge for a three-game series against LSU, which is ranked No. 3 and has won 13 of its last 14 games. Coach John Pawlowski said the challenge could be redemptive in that players seem enthusiastic about learning from what happened against the Commodores.

"One of the things that we've learned is that guys have to understand just how much importance there is on everything we do -- every pitch, every at-bat, every situation," he said. "Against good team, you've got to be able to capitalize on that. We didn't. Everybody was so excited to get out there on Tuesday to play again and get that bad taste out of your mouth and flush it out of your system."

Auburn had little trouble disposing of Alabama State on Tuesday night, but needed 11 innings to beat Southern Miss in Mobile a day later.

Hitting has been an issue. Only two regular players have an average over .300 during the past 10 games. Third baseman Damek Tomscha and first baseman Garrett Cooper, the Tigers' fourth and fifth hitters, have combined for a .203 average, three extra-base hits and 11 RBIs during that stretch.

Pawlowski's team also achieves unevenly at the plate. Auburn often finds itself punchless at the plate during the first four innings before finding its way during the final stages.

That makes things exciting, sure, but Pawlowski wants to see a more consistent level of productivity. That would allow pitchers to work with a lead more often, which increases confidence and performance.

"I don't know if it's our guys not being able to make adjustments early in a game or what," Pawlowski said. "We've evaluated everything we're trying to do -- scouting reports, game information we have, video footage we have. I think we're going to break out early and score early in games. We just haven't done that yet. Sooner or later, it's got to turn for us and we'll get a couple of breaks and score some runs."

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