Preview: Alabama Readies For Road Matchup With #23 Auburn
Alabama (25-24, 8-16 SEC) regained some much needed momentum following a doubleheader sweep over Alabama A&M on Tuesday afternoon.
The Crimson Tide will now hit the road to face a red hot Auburn team that recently moved into the top 25 rankings. Alabama is in need of conference wins to secure a spot in the SEC tournament, and the Tigers got the best of them in a neutral site game earlier this season.
Auburn (32-17, 12-12 SEC) has won its last three SEC series including a sweep over Georgia. The Tigers were 9-9 in the month of March but have gone 14-4 since that time. The quick turnaround can be attributed primarily to the team's improvement on the mound as they now have the 4th best team ERA (3.27) in the SEC.
Probable starters for Auburn this weekend are RHP Cole Lipscomb (6-2, 2.44 ERA, 66 SO, 20 BB), RHP Rocky McCord (5-3, 3.34 ERA, 53 SO, 33 BB), and RHP Dalton Rentz (3-1, 2.27 ERA, 43 SO, 25 BB). Lipscomb received just his second loss of the season after allowing three earned runs to South Carolina in a 10-1 loss. McCord has wins in each of his last three starts. Rentz's one and only loss came in relief against Arkansas on April 5th.
Alabama has not seen the same success on the mound. The Crimson Tide's 4.12 team ERA is among the worst in the conference. The pitching staff has allowed 212 walks, which is already more than last year's team had in the entire regular season.
The Tide's probable starters are LHP Taylor Guilbeau (2-5, 3.82 ERA, 64 SO, 34 BB), RHP Jake Walters (4-3, 2.45 ERA, 49 SO, 22 BB), and RHP Geoffrey Bramblett (6-3, 4.15 ERA, 52 SO, 23 BB). Guilbeau will be searching for his first win since March 6th. Walters has stepped in and been of the team's most consistent pitchers despite having losses in his last two starts. Bramblett has been equally impressive this season with wins over Texas A&M, Georgia, and Ole Miss.
Alabama has been equally inconsistent at the plate even though they remain average in regards to SEC statistics. The team did manage to rack 23 hits in the doubleheader sweep of Alabama A&M with each starting player picking up at least one hit. The performance serves as a reminder that the Tide's lineup can be dangerous with players like Casey Hughston and Mikey White leading the way.
Auburn has not separated itself from its arch rival in batting statistics, but it has been far more consistent. The Tigers have 84 hits and 42 runs in their last three SEC series. Center fielder Anfernee Grier leads the team in almost every single batting category including batting average (.367), runs (37), and doubles (22). Grier leads the SEC with 73 hits, which is 23 more than the next closest Auburn batter.
Alabama leads the all-time series 151-123 over Auburn. Friday's game is scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm CT. Saturday's first pitch will be at 3:00 pm CT, and Sunday's first pitch at 1:00 pm CT.
Click here to hear what head coach Mitch Gaspard and shortstop Mikey White had to say about this weekend's series.