Auburn Tiger Baseball: First Hoover, Then The West, What's Next?

Tiger HistalmosAnalyst IMay 22, 2010

First it was the drought.  The six-year hiatus from the SEC baseball promised land known as Hoover, Alabama.  The SEC tournament, the goal for all twelve SEC teams at the start of the season. 

For the Auburn Tigers, the drought ended last Saturday with a 18-0 trouncing of the Tennessee Volunteers.  It was the first stepping stone towards greener baseball fields. 

Going into this upcoming series, the Tigers needed a series win to move onto the next goal: Win the SEC western division title.

Yesterday, Kevin Patterson's three-run homer lifted the Tigers to a 5-3 victory over the Ole Miss Rebels.  And just a few minutes ago, the Tigers combined for 20 hits as they soared over the Rebels 18-4. 

The victory over the Rebels allowed Auburn to clinch their first outright Western Division title since 1995.  The 19 conference wins also top a school record of 18 wins in 1999 and 2008. The victory also seemingly clinched the Tigers as a host for the NCAA tournament.

As much as the Tigers have accomplished so far, the sky is the limit for these young players. 

Auburn can go for the sweep tomorrow, padding their resume for that regional host bid.  The Tigers will be in the SEC tournament as the No. 2 seed, either to face LSU or Alabama in the first round.

What most will not realize is this team was picked to finish fifth in the West by seemingly everyone.  Media, coaches, and fan polls didn't have Auburn doing much this season. 

Most fans coming into the season were just praying that Auburn could break their six-year streak of not appearing in the SEC tournament.  Very few thought that Auburn would be capable of winning the division. 

How did this all happen?  For years, Auburn has needed all the pieces to fall together.  Auburn has been known for their hitting prowess in the last few seasons.  Patterson, along with Brian Fletcher, Trent Mummey, and Hunter Morris, have led the power hitting within the lineup.

Other players like Dan Gamache, Ryan Jenkins, Justin Fradejas, Tony Caldwell, and Casey McElroy have consistently hit the ball well.  All these players mentioned have a batting average over .300.

It has also been Auburn's pitching staff that have made it possible to get routs going and win crucial games during the season. 

Cory Luckie, Cole Nelson, and Grant Dayton have come into their own as quality starters on a consistent basis.  Slade Smith, Sean Ray, Bradley Hendrix, and Michael Hurst have become big time long relievers. Austin Hubbard has stepped up in the closer role, able to pitch in the clutch to get Auburn those crucial wins against the likes of Arkansas and Ole Miss.

Most will say that when Auburn finally took the series against LSU for the first time at home since 1998, that was the turning point for the team. 

Since that series, Auburn has gone 12-5 in SEC play with their only series loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores. 

It has to be said that Auburn is one of the hottest teams going into the SEC tournament.  It seems that everything is coming together at the appropriate time. 

As Auburn finishes up the series against Ole Miss tomorrow, the next stage waits on the horizon. 

If any team is to be feared going into the tournament, it should be the Tigers from the plains of Auburn.


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