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Can Auburn find its swing?


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Can Auburn find its swing with season on the line against Stanford in College World Series?

By Tom Green | tgreen@al.com
6-7 minutes

Auburn went quietly into the night in its College World Series opener, silenced by the right arm of Ole Miss pitcher Dylan DeLucia, who sent the Tigers into the losers’ bracket. Now if Auburn hopes to make some noise in Omaha, Neb., it’ll have to come from the distinct ping of its bats.

For that to happen, though, the Tigers will have to shake out of a bit of a funk at the plate. After opening the postseason with a 51-run outburst over three games in the Auburn Regional and seven runs in its Super Regional opener at Oregon State, Auburn has struggled to string together any sort of consistent offense.

Read more Auburn baseball: With “tall order” ahead in College World Series, Auburn vows to come back fighting against Stanford

Why Auburn fell to Ole Miss in CWS opener

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The Tigers are 12-of-94—hitting .128 as a team—over their last three games, including Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the Rebels in which they mustered just four hits off DeLucia, who carried a perfect game into the fifth inning.

“That’s three games in a row where we just haven’t (hit),” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “We won the third game of the Super Regional with three hits. It’s the third game in a row where we just couldn’t get a leadoff man on to ever create an inning.”

While no one has swung the bat particularly well during that three-game stretch, the top of Auburn’s order has certainly had its share of struggles. Blake Rambusch and Cole Foster are a combined 1-of-21 and have reached base two times over the last three games — a stat that becomes harder to swallow when you factor in who has been hitting behind them: SEC Co-Player of the Year Sonny DiChiara (3-of-10 with two RBI, a home run and a walk to lead all Auburn hitters during this recent stretch).

They’ve not been alone in the struggles at the plate, though. Brooks Carlson (2-of-11 with an RBI), Bobby Peirce (2-of-11 with two runs scored and an RBI) and Brody Moore (2-of-10) are the only other Tigers with more than one hit over the last three games.

The entire lineup couldn’t get things going in the first game in Omaha. DeLucia retired the first 14 batters he faced before Moore singled with two outs in the fifth. Auburn didn’t muster a run until the seventh, when the Tigers strung together three straight hits to open the inning. Garrett Farquhar— in for Foster, who left the game due to illness and was dealing with dehydration on a sweltering day at Charles Schwab Field — led off with a double past the center fielder. DiChiara followed with a single to put runners on the corners, and Peirce drove in the team’s lone run of the game with an RBI single through the left side.

That was all the Tigers could muster, though, as DeLucia worked out of the jam. Auburn only had one baserunner the rest of the game — Rambusch, who reached on a fielding error with two outs in the eighth but was picked off at first to end the inning. The Tigers finished the night with four hits, no walks and 13 strikeouts, 10 of which were recorded by DeLucia.

“We never could garner any offense,” Thompson said. “…It just didn’t seem like we were ever in a count. Bobby mentioned [DeLucia] getting ahead. There was just not those big disadvantage counts for us to do damage. It seemed like the whole day we were trying to make contact, more or less, than trying to get into some advantageous situations, getting the leadoff man on, getting set for an inning. It just hadn’t happened for us the last couple of games.”

Auburn only faced three-ball counts four times against Ole Miss, producing two baserunners (one hit and an error), and generally struggled to get ahead in the count. Whether the Tigers can establish a better approach—and better results—at the plate will dictate whether their stay in Omaha will be extended past Monday, when they square off against No. 2 seed Stanford at 1 p.m. (ESPN).

Stanford was walloped by Arkansas in the early game Saturday, giving up 17 runs on 21 hits to the Razorbacks en route to a 17-2 loss. However, the Cardinal are likely to call upon junior left-hander, Quinn Mathews (9-1, 2.62 ERA). The 6-foot-4 southpaw has appeared in 26 games for the Cardinal, with nine starts, nine wins and nine saves over 96 1/3 innings of work. He leads the team in ERA and has struck out 110 and walked 47, and opposing hitters are batting just .204 against him this season.

It’s another daunting challenge for Auburn in its journey for a College World Series title, and while Thompson hasn’t been shy about his team’s recent inconsistency at the plate, he believes the solution is about simplification. After all, he only needs to look back two weeks — back when the offense was “unconscious” and on “autopilot” — to see what this lineup is capable of.

As he said Sunday afternoon: It’s in there. It’s just a matter of settling in and unlocking it against some of the best arms the nation has to offer.

“We’ve seen good arms, and we’ve played good offense before,” Thompson said. “This is the moment where you want to go, and all these years here, the last time here — my two trips here, I want to see Auburn have success here. I don’t think anybody is panicking or anything; you’re going to see great arms.

“You’re going to have to beat great arms. You’re going to have to do things like that. That’s what tomorrow’s opportunity is about.”

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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does Sonny di have any chance of making it in the pro's? he has two auburn rookie cards in an auburn uni but they are kinda pricey at 31 bucks a piece so maybe i need to wait until a better deal comes around? thanx

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49 minutes ago, aubiefifty said:

does Sonny di have any chance of making it in the pro's? he has two auburn rookie cards in an auburn uni but they are kinda pricey at 31 bucks a piece so maybe i need to wait until a better deal comes around? thanx

His chances aren't that great. He's not slow by the standards for normal people, but he's very slow by major league baseball standards. I expect him to be a lower round draft pick and I'll be happily surprised if he advances beyond Double-A level in professional baseball.

I wouldn't pay anything like $30 for his card at this point. Now that I've said that, watch him become the next Babe Ruth! I'd also point out that, appearances aside, Ruth wasn't slow, he had average speed for a baseball player.

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2 hours ago, Mikey said:

His chances aren't that great. He's not slow by the standards for normal people, but he's very slow by major league baseball standards. I expect him to be a lower round draft pick and I'll be happily surprised if he advances beyond Double-A level in professional baseball.

I wouldn't pay anything like $30 for his card at this point. Now that I've said that, watch him become the next Babe Ruth! I'd also point out that, appearances aside, Ruth wasn't slow, he had average speed for a baseball player.

thanx mikey i thought it was high but i have watched very little baseball and i was hoping someone in the know would answer.

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4 hours ago, Mikey said:

His chances aren't that great. He's not slow by the standards for normal people, but he's very slow by major league baseball standards. I expect him to be a lower round draft pick and I'll be happily surprised if he advances beyond Double-A level in professional baseball.

I wouldn't pay anything like $30 for his card at this point. Now that I've said that, watch him become the next Babe Ruth! I'd also point out that, appearances aside, Ruth wasn't slow, he had average speed for a baseball player.

If Pujols still has a job being that slow and after having plantar fascitis, Sonny can make it to the pros if his bat was good enough. Granted Pujols also brings in a s*** ton of money.

Weirdly enough Mize's Auburn/team USA cards weren't that expensive lol in his draft season.

 

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