Auburn Regional capsule, a closer look
As Auburn gets set to host their first regional since 2003, the Tigers will be welcoming in three other teams, two of which are conference tournament champions.
The top seed in the regional are the Auburn Tigers. Auburn earned the right to stay at home by winning the SEC Western division and earning a number two seed in the conference tournament.
Auburn's season turned when they won a home series against SEC tournament champion LSU in April. The Tigers went 13-5 in conference from that point on, and set a new school record for conference wins in a season with 20.
The number two seed Clemson Tigers had an up and down season. From the end of March through April, the Tigers really struggled to find their way going 8-15 in a 23 game stretch in the middle of the season.
But once May hit, Clemson really turned it on. The Tigers went 13-4 down the stretch, including sweeping Florida State in a three game series to win the ACC's Atlantic division. Clemson went 1-2 in the ACC tournament.
The number three seed Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles experienced a very similar season to Clemson. Coming off a run to the College World Series last season defeating Georgia Tech and Florida on the way, Southern Mississippi struggled to get things going early on. They were sitting at 18-17 towards the end of April, and had to be wondering if there was a postseason in their future.
When they did find their groove, the Golden Eagles went 17-5 over the last month of the season, including winning the Conference USA tournament championship by beating regular season champion Rice.
Jacksonville State comes in as the underdog number four seed, but is playing their best baseball of the year right now. The Gamecocks are currently on a six game win streak, including three in row to win the Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship.
Jacksonville State's last loss was against the team they will face to open regional play this weekend, falling 9-7 at Auburn back on May 18th.
Here's a closer look at the four teams competing in the Auburn regional, and what the Tigers will have to face to advance to their first super regional in 10 years.
Special thanks to Rivals.com baseball analyst Kendall Rogers for his contribution.
Head Coach: John Pawlowski
Overall Record: 40-19
Conference Record: 20-10
Offensive Threat: Hunter Morris, Junior, First Baseman
.392 average, 21 home runs, 70 RBI
Morris was awarded the 2010 SEC Player of the Year for his efforts this season, and is one home run away from tying the single season school record for home runs. Morris leads the SEC in slugging percentage (.752), hits (98), RBI (70), home runs (21), and total bases (188).
Best Arm: Grant Dayton, Junior, LHP
8-2, 4.33 ERA
Dayton has appeared in 41 career games, and has recorded 17 wins in his career. The junior won seven games in the SEC this season, and is coming off a 7 1/3 inning, one run performance against South Carolina in the SEC tournament. Dayton hasn't given up more than two earned runs in each of his last three starts.
Auburn brings a potent offense into the regional, ranking in the top ten nationally in batting average (.354), runs per game (9.4), runs (527), and hits (724). The Tigers also lead the nation in home runs per game (2.04), home runs (114), and slugging percentage (.597).
Morris is one of 12 Tigers that have played in at least 29 games and have a batting average over .300. Juniors Brian Fletcher (.359, 20 home runs, 70 RBI), and Trent Mummey (.371, 15 home runs, 47 RBI) help lead the Auburn attack, but are both coming off minor injuries.
While Auburn doesn't rely on stolen bases, they do play some small ball to go with the power hitting. The Tigers rank 15th nationally in sacrifice bunts with 53, and 12th nationally in sacrifice flies with 36 on the season.
Outside of Dayton, the Tigers do have two other six game winners in Cory Luckie (6-4, 5.68) and Cole Nelson (6-3, 5.07). Auburn's pitching staff has been good enough this season, with a team ERA of 4.86, ranking 57th nationally.
"Obviously, from an offensive standpoint, they are pretty tough. The three guys in the middle of the lineup, Mummey, Fletcher, and Morris, are pretty stout. The big thing with Auburn from a pitching standpoint, is make sure they don't have to go to Monday, just take care of business the first three days. I think last weekend was good for Auburn. I think going into the SEC tournament and not taking care of business was a reality check. I think they will go home and be pumped up offensively, and I think they will be motivated."
Head Coach: Jack Leggett
Overall Record: 38-21
Conference Record: 18-12
Offensive Threat: Kyle Parker, Junior, Outfielder/First Baseman
.364 average, 19 home runs, 57 RBI
Parker is a dual sport star for the Tigers, serving as Clemson's starting quarterback on the football team as well. He's the only Division I player in history to throw 20 touchdowns and hit at least 18 home runs in the same academic year.
Best Arm: Casey Harman, Junior, LHP
6-2, 4.14 ERA
Harman entered his junior campaign with a 5.12 to 1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the best in school history. The junior was also third in school history with a ratio of 1.79 walks per nine innings heading into 2010. Harman did struggle a bit in his last outing in the first round of the ACC tournament. He threw 5 1/3 innings against N.C. State, giving up five hits, four runs, four walks, but did strikeout eight in the process.
Clemson enters the regional with a team batting average of .305, which ranks 140th in the nation. Parker is the high profile Tiger, but sophomore Brad Miller leads the team in average at .373, and is hitting .533 in his last 15 games.
The Tiger offense is still averaging almost nine runs per game, good for a top twenty ranking nationally. They make up for the dip in average with patience at the plate, as Clemson has drawn an amazing 323 walks this season, ranking third nationally.
If there's one thing Clemson doesn't do very well, it's moving runners over. The Tigers have only laid down 14 sacrifice bunts all season, ranking 269th in the country.
Outside of Harman, the pitching staff is good enough to get the job done with a team ERA of 4.63, good for 42nd nationally. Sophomore Scott Weismann is the number two starter, with a 6-2 record, and an ERA of 5.47.
"They haven't been very consistent. They sweep Florida State, and then go to the ACC tournament and lose a couple of games. They certainly have the talent, offensive guys like Kyle Parker, and pitching wise they have talent too. The biggest thing with them is being consistent. They certainly have the talent, but they haven't shown the ability to put it together consistently."
Head Coach: Scott Berry
Conference: Conference USA
Overall Record: 35-22
Conference Record: 14-10
Offensive Threat: B.A. Vollmuth, Sophomore, Shortstop
.378 average, 18 home runs, 68 RBI
Vollmuth was named a 2010 preseason All-American by Baseball America prior to this season. In last year's Atlanta regional, Vollmuth hit three home runs, drove in 10 RBI, and had 14 total bases to lead his team to a regional win over Georgia Tech. Vollmuth also hit two home runs in the same inning against Georgia Tech in the regional as well.
Best Arm: Scott Copeland, Senior, RHP
11-0, 3.38 ERA
The big right hander is the ace of the staff, and threw two complete games as a junior. Last year, Copeland came in for relief against Florida in the super regional, throwing three shutout innings, and earning the save in the deciding game that sent Southern Mississippi to the College World Series. Copeland repeated the feat this season in the Conference USA championship game against Rice, throwing 4 1/3 shutout innings in relief, while only giving up three hits along the way.
Southern Miss comes in boasting not only one of the nation's best hitters in Vollmuth, but an offense that scores almost nine runs per game themselves, ranking just behind Clemson at 20th nationally. They also rank 44th nationally with a team batting average of .327.
Senior Taylor Walker is right behind Vollmuth in average, with a .365 batting average, 60 runs scored, and eight stolen bases on the season.
The Golden Eagles seem to do whatever it takes to win games, ranking in the top 50 nationally in walks (36th), sacrifice bunts (46th), and being hit by a pitch (16th).
Although Copeland is a big time arm, as well as junior Todd McInnis (6-5, 3.15), the team ERA is 5.77 and ranked 125th nationally.
"I think Southern Miss is an intriguing team. They didn't play very well much of the season, much like last year, then they got hot towards the end and got to Omaha. They have a lot of veterans in that pitching staff and some pretty solid players in the field. I have reserves whether they can get past Auburn. I'm not so sure they have the arms to get past Monday."
Head Coach: Jim Case
Conference: Ohio Valley
Overall Record: 32-24
Conference Record: 15-8
Offensive Threat: Todd Cunningham, Junior, Outfielder/Shortstop
.352 average, 10 home runs, 39 RBI
Cunningham is second on the team in average, home runs, and stolen bases (21). The junior just moved to shortstop in the last month, and the move has seem to stuck as the Gamecocks have won six games in a row. Cunningham was named to the Baseball America and Ping preseason All-American teams prior to this season as well.
Best Arm: Austin Lucas, Senior, RHP
6-0, 4.97 ERA
Lucas is no stranger to throwing deep into a ballgame. The senior threw two complete games as a junior last season, and is coming off a marathon performance in the Ohio Valley conference tournament. Lucas pitched 7 2/3 innings in the second round against Eastern Illinois, throwing 123 pitches while giving up 10 hits on his way to protecting his perfect record.
The Gamecocks bring a team batting average of .313 into the regional, ranking 100th nationally. They, like the other three teams, also average over eight runs per game, and rank 50th nationally.
Jacksonville State does have a little pop in their bats, ranking in the top 45 nationally in triples (37), home runs per game (1.34), home runs (71), and slugging percentage (.508).
Although the Gamecocks have Lucas with a perfect record, the rest of the pitching staff is lacking, coming into the regional with a team ERA of 6.62, ranking 213th nationally. The pitching staff also issues 4.14 walks per game, good for 210th nationally.
"You look at the job Jim Case has done and it's impressive, they are a scary club. You look at the teams from the OVC in the past few years. Three years ago, Austin Peay almost upset Vanderbilt in that first game and Vanderbilt was a top national seed. Last year, Tennessee Tech upset Clemson in the first game of that regional. They have some good players, Todd Cunningham is a guy that can cause some problems offensively, I'm just not sure they have the pitching to win the regional."