AUBURN | Daniel Koger opened the season as Auburn's most reliable pitcher.
Now he's the out of the rotation.
Alabama (16-10, 5-1) at Auburn (15-10, 0-6)
WHEN: Thursday (6 p.m.), Friday (6 p.m.), Saturday (3 p.m.)
WHERE: Plainsman Park, Auburn
ON THE AIR: TV - CSS on Saturday; Radio - Auburn IMG Sports Network; Internet: AUHD via AuburnTigers.com
LHP Conner Kendrick (2-0, 1.46) vs. RHP Charley Sullivan (2-1, 2.92)
LHP Mike O'Neal (4-2, 2.78) vs. LHP Jon Keller (3-2, 2.78)
TBA vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (2-1, 3.31)
NOTES OF INTEREST: Auburn defeated Alabama earlier this month to capture the Capital City Classic for the fifth consecutive season ... Going back to 2006, the home team has won this series each time ... John Pawlowski is 10-8 against Alabama ... Auburn has trailed in 20 of its 25 games this season and has not led in an SEC game ... Junior catcher Blake Austin has gunned down 29 runners during his career, which ranks fifth in school history.
Conner Kendrick has been moved into the ace role for the Tigers' series against Alabama, which begins tonight. He held the Crimson Tide scoreless through six innings during the Capital City Classic and struck out eight batters, though coach John Pawlowski has been searching for someone to take Koger's spot in the rotation.
Koger has allowed 10 earned runs and four homers during his past two conference starts while struggling with mechanical issues.
"When we recruited Conner, he had always been a starting pitcher," Pawlowski said. "He came in in the fall and had a few issues where he couldn't compete in the fall, not arm issues, and then got healthy, came back in January and we felt it was an opportunity for him to start building up his base, building up his innings. He has pitched extremely well and now we are going to give him an opportunity to pitch on the front end of games."
Here are a few additional excerpts from Pawlowski's weekly meeting with reporters:
** On the Alabama series: "We look at it and anytime you can win a baseball game, whoever it is against, you can always take some confidence from that and knowing that you have competed against them already. They (Alabama) have been playing really well. They have done some great things and they are off to a tremendous start in conference (5-1 SEC). We on the other hand have not played well in conference (0-6). Every team is different at different points of the season. Hopefully we can get back to the way that we are certainly capable of playing."
** On if the Tigers are pressing right now: "I don't know if they are necessarily feeling pressure. I think what's happening sometimes is they feel the need to do a little bit more than they are capable of. We are looking for that big hit so they try and do too much, come out of their comfort zone a little bit, or try to make that great pitch or try to make a tremendous play when we just need them to settle in and play the way they are capable of doing. I think sometimes you try and do more than you are capable of doing. Whether that is pressing or not, I don't know if that's what it is but they continue to work hard. We just have to get them to settle in."
** On looking ahead to April and May: "We have played 20 percent of our conference games and have 80 percent left. It's what are we going to do with that 80 percent. There is a lot of baseball left to be played, there is a lot of good left in this team. There are a lot of opportunities to turn this thing in a positive. There is nowhere to go but up from where we are in the league standings. We haven't talked much about that and we are not really going to other than the fact that they know where we are at. I think we can take some positive in knowing that we have more baseball to play."
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