For the Auburn baseball and softball teams it is still early in their 2021 seasons, but both need to start building momentum in Southeastern Conference play to produce the type of records that will earn each squad spots in their respective NCAA Tournaments.
Coach Butch Thompson’s baseball squad will be playing at home this week with the Kentucky Wildcats coming to Plainsman Park for a three-game series beginning on Friday night.
After suffering through a lost weekend at Ole Miss where the Tigers dropped a pair of one-run games before the pitching staff collapsed in the finale of the series, the Tigers need to start climbing out of the SEC basement against the Wildcats.
Injuries have been a problem for the baseball team and have significantly impacted the pitching staff. It is probably going to be close to midseason before all of those guys are back to 100 percent, or close to it, so it is important that several down the line pitchers step up and show more consistency.
It will also be a big deal to get more consistency from the hitters, especially when facing the type of pitching they will often see during an SEC series.
Hitting is the issue over at Jane B. Moore Field where the softball Tigers haven’t shown enough offensive punch, especially with runners in scoring position. After being swept at home in their league opening series by Alabama, the Tigers took a break from SEC competition last week. This weekend they will be on the road for what should be three challenging conference games vs. a Top 25 opponent, the Missouri Tigers.
Coach Mickey Dean’s squad is relying on a lot of young players, which is probably a major reason why he predicted his Tigers will improve the more they play. Auburn’s record is 18-6, which is solid, but for power rating purposes it needs more wins vs. ranked teams like Missouri.
Auburn earned a nice victory last weekend, bouncing back to edge No. 13 Florida State after being run-ruled by the Seminoles in the first of two games between the teams. Hitting issues caused the Tigers to go 1-1 over the weekend vs. Kennesaw State, the type of opponent that should not be winning games on the home field of a ranked SEC team.
If the softball Tigers can show a little more punch at the plate, for the most part the pitching has been good enough to give the team chances to start winning SEC games. With an 0-3 start in the league, it is time to do something sooner than later about that zero in the SEC victory column.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter