Auburn heads into the 2012 SEC Baseball Tournament as the #10 seed, and will face a very familiar Florida Gator squad in round one starting Tuesday, May 22 at 4:30 pm.
The Tigers and Gators just concluded a three game series at Plainsman Park to end the regular season, a series the Gators took two of three games from while outscoring Auburn 22-6. Auburn did manage to end the series on a positive note, taking game three in dramatic fashion with a throw out at the home plate to send Auburn home with the 5-4 victory.
Auburn still has many key players who haven't been healthy for a while including Cullen Wacker, Garret Cooper, Jay Gonzalez, Will Kendall, and several others. For the Tigers to have a chance to make any noise this postseason, certain role players will have to step up starting in round one on Tuesday.
"We had guys in against Florida who weren't used to handling big time situations, but they found a way too," said head coach Jon Pawlowski.
The Gators will send right-handed sophomore Jonathan Crawford (4-2, 3.67 ERA) to the mound to start against Auburn, who will counter with this past Friday's contest starter Jon Luke Jacobs (5-3, 3.75 ERA).
Jacobs lasted a little over an inning in last Friday's game, giving up four runs early. Crawford's last appearance came against Mississippi State May 12, where he lasted four innings, giving up two runs on two hits, and issued two walks.
The Gatos are lead at the plate by outfielder Preston Tucker (.571 vs. AU, 2 2B's, 2 HR), and catcher Mike Zunino (.400 vs. AU, 2 2B's, HR). Both Tucker and Zunino had no problems facing Auburn's pitchers, a trend the Tigers must break if they are going to advance in the winner's bracket.
Sophomore outfielder Ryan Tella leads the Tigers in batting, hitting .368 on year, while knocking five home runs, and driving in 34 RBI.
Senior Creede Simpson has been Auburn's big play threat all year at the plate, and the Tigers need another heroic game from him in order to advance Tuesday afternoon.
Where they stand
Auburn currently ranks 56th in RPI according to WarrenNolan.com, and 53rd by BoydsWorld.com. Those numbers are currently high enough for the Tigers to sneak into the round of 64, but Auburn could desperately use one or two more wins to boost their status in the eyes of the selection committee.
If Auburn beats Florida on Tuesday, they would face #2 South Carolina on Wednesday. If the Tigers should lose their first game, they would play the loser between Vanderbilt and Georgia on Wednesday.
The Tigers struggled at the plate practically the whole series against Florida, only squeaking out five hits in the first two games.
While the Tigers won't see any of the starters from this past weekend on Tuesday, Crawford is still a very formidable opponent.
First pitch is set for 4:30pm on Tuesday afternoon, and the game will be televised on CSS.