Behind Enemy Lines: Talking Gators vs Tigers with Auburn Wire

·4 min read

Florida baseball gets set to host the Auburn Tigers this weekend at Condron Family Ballpark in Gainesville, Florida, for a three-game weekend series between two Southeastern Conference schools. The teams meet for the first time and only time during the regular-season schedule.

The Gators are off to a strong start, ranked third in the nation according to the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll after taking two of three from Alabama at home to open conference play while sweeping Ole Miss on the road last weekend to push their SEC record to 5-1. the Tigers, on the other hand, have stumbled out of the gates currently unranked and just 2-4 in SEC competition so far.

We caught up with Auburn Wire’s managing editor Taylor Jones ahead of this weekend’s action to get the inside scoop on the Tigers’ team this year. Take a look below at our question-and-answer session with our fellow Wires site.

Overall, what should Gators fans know about this Auburn Tigers team?

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn lost its top four hitters from last season, which included a big presence in Sonny DiChiara, who crushed 22 home runs last season. It also did not help that two of its’ three-weekend starters left for the MLB, and the third starter has battled a shoulder injury all season long. The team is slowly, but surely, coming together as many new faces are making a name for themselves.

Auburn has stumbled to a 2-4 record to open up the SEC schedule, getting swept by Arkansas before bouncing back and taking two of three from Georgia. Is this team improving or was that just a result of the talent differential?

Grayson Belanger / Auburn Athletics

Last week, the bats were able to get the job done. Auburn needed to erase a three-run deficit in games one and two in order to win the series with Georgia and was able to do so. Auburn’s inconsistency with its weekend rotation, plus having so many young bats, were a factor in being swept by a far superior team in Arkansas on the road.

This team will eventually compete in the tough road environments that the SEC has to offer, but starting off by playing at Baum and in Gainesville is definitely not the easiest way to get there.

What is this team's best strength?

Jacob Taylor/Auburn Athletics

This team just does not quit. Auburn erased two three-run deficits to win the Georgia series, they have also defeated USC, Lipscomb, Jacksonville State, and Georgia Tech in comeback fashion. If Auburn can keep a game close, it’s easy to assume that they will keep fighting until the final out.

What is this team's worst weakness?

Jacob Taylor/AU Athletics

It has to be the weekend rotation. Each pitcher has redeeming qualities, but Butch Thompson has the task of not only filling the hole left by Joseph Gonzalez, who is batting a shoulder injury, but finding the right pieces to make up the ideal weekend rotation.

Until the right combination is presented, the Tigers will still need to allow time for the younger pitchers to find a rhythm.

Which player(s) should Gators fans keep an eye on at the plate?

Jacob Taylor/Auburn Athletics

Auburn’s most experienced returning players are Cole Foster and Bryson Ware. Ware hit his 10th home run of the season on Tuesday against North Alabama and is filling in nicely for Brody Moore in the infield. Foster has been a solid run-producer and finds a way to get on base regularly.

Two newcomers to watch are Ike Irish and Justin Kirby. Irish, a true freshman, leads the SEC in doubles, and holds a .416 average. Thompson describes Irish’s success perfectly by saying that he “never takes an at-bat off.”

Kirby is a power threat that has found ways to get on base as of late. His first six hits in an Auburn uniform were home runs, but he has now recorded 25 hits at this point in the season.

Which player(s) should the fans be watching on the mound?

Jacob Taylor/Auburn Athletics

Tommy Vail will more than likely be the Friday night starter and will be Auburn’s most dominant starting pitcher of the weekend. He’s turned into a weekend guy after making a few midweek starts and has allowed just 11 hits in 22 2/3 innings of work while striking out 29.


John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

The Gators should win the series, I say by taking two of three. I feel that the Tigers will find a solid balance of good pitching and consistent hitting in one game of the series… not sure which one. But those two things will need to happen for Auburn to defeat Florida in any game.

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire