Baseball Preview: Alabama Readies For Series With Rival Auburn
Alabama (25-20, 10-11 SEC) should feel refreshed after getting a break from a midweek game to focus on this weekend's series with arch-rival Auburn (20-24, 7-14 SEC).
The Tide is 2-5 in its last seven games; however, the team should be pleased with its wins and close calls against two top-5 teams. There is plenty of room for improvement all-around, and Alabama will look to get back in rhythm as they face a struggling Auburn team.
The Tigers' struggles are not a reason for anyone to underestimate them, especially in a rivalry game with so much on the line. Auburn can hurt you in a hurry, which they proved earlier this season in the Capitol City Classic when they defeated the Tide, 10-1.
Saying that Auburn has been successful at the plate would be an understatement. As a team, the Tigers rank in the top three in batting average (.311), slugging percentage (.442), and hits (491). Another key stat is that they have scored over 300 runs this season (302). Compare that to Alabama's 189 runs.
Two of the Tigers' most dangerous players are outfielders Jordan Ebert and Anfernee Grier. Grier is currently batting .399, and Ebert is not far behind at .353. Both players have more runs scored combined (85) than Alabama's entire infield has combined (67).
Auburn's lineup will still be tested against one of the SEC's best starting pitcher rotations in RHP Geoffrey Bramblett, RHP Jake Walters, and RHP Nick Eicholtz. Bramblett has losses in three of his last four starts, but he still boasts one of the best ERA's in the conference (2.78). Walters' has the third best ERA (1.99) in the conference, while Eicholtz has the best ERA in the SEC (1.89).
Auburn's probable starters for the series are RHP Cole Lipscomb, RHP Justin Camp, and LHP Ben Braymer. Lipscomb has a 2-3 record and a 5.19 ERA, but he did pick up the win in last week's start against Kentucky. Camp's 3-3 record and 3.63 ERA is the best among starting pitchers. Braymer has a 3-4 record, but this will just be his fourth start of the season.
The Tide has an excellent opportunity to get the bats going against the Tigers' struggling pitching staff. It goes without saying that Mitch Gaspard will need his entire lineup to provide run support for Bramblett and company. One player that Gaspard will lean heavily on is Chance Vincent. He leads the team in batting average (.311), and he provided the walk-off hit that secured Alabama's only victory against Mississippi State last weekend.
Alabama leads the all-time series over Auburn, 152-127. The Tide has taken the last four SEC series against the Tigers. Friday's game is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. CT. Saturday's first pitch will at 6:00 p.m. CT, and Sunday's finale will be at 3:00 p.m. CT. Saturday and Sunday's games will be televised on the SEC Network.