The Auburn baseball team will put its seven-game winning streak on the line on Friday night when it welcomes No. 2 Vanderbilt to Plainsman Park for the opening weekend of Southeastern Conference play. Auburn goes into the weekend 13-3 while Vanderbilt is 16-2.
"Anytime you open up conference play it is always an exciting time for your team," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "Our team has worked extremely hard in preparing for the challenges of the 2013 schedule. The players have played hard, they have made some great progress and I am looking forward to seeing them compete this weekend against a very talented Vanderbilt team."
Auburn is off to its best start since the 2007 team was 14-2 after 16 games. Since Pawlowski took over the program in 2009, Auburn has won each of its SEC-opening series, including series wins over No. 9 Arkansas at home in 2011 and at No. 12 Ole Miss in 2012.
The pitching matchups for the weekend will be:
Friday, March 15, 6pm: LHP Daniel Koger (0-0, 2.42) vs. LHP Kevin Ziomek (4-0, 0.87)
Saturday, March 16, 2:15pm: LHP Michael O'Neal (4-0, 1.40) vs. RHP Tyler Beede (4-0, 1.07)
Sunday, March 17, 1pm: RHP Rocky McCord (2-0, 3.44) vs. LHP Philip Pfeifer (2-0, 1.32)
Saturday's game will be televised live on SportSouth and all three games will be available on the Auburn Baseball Radio Network as well as on-line at auburntigers.com.The first 500 fans into Friday's game will receive a 2013 t-shirt courtesy of Goodwill and it is also a Fourquare Friday. All three games will feature a Bargain Beverage Inning. Sunday is Family Day and fans can buy three tickets and get one free (advance purchase only-promo code FAMILY). The first 500 fans into Sunday's game will also receive a shamrock necklace for St. Patrick's Day. Following the game youth 12-and-under may run the bases.
Auburn is off to its best start at 13-3 since the 2007 team started out the year 14-2 ... That team was 18-3 heading into SEC play and finished the year 31-25 (10-20 SEC) ... Auburn's best-ever 16-game start was in 1997 when it was 16-0.
OPENING SEC PLAY:
Auburn opens up SEC play this weekend against No. 2 Vanderbilt ... It is the first time Auburn opens up league play against Vanderbilt since the 1989 season, when Auburn took two-of-three from the Commodores ... Under John Pawlowski (since 2009), Auburn has won its opening conference series all four times, winning a series at Tennessee in 2009, sweeping a series at Georgia in 2010, winning a home series against No. 9 Arkansas in 2011 and winning at No. 12 Ole Miss in 2012.
AUBURN VS. NO. 2:
Auburn is facing the No. 2 team for the second straight SEC weekend after closing the 2012 season against No. 2 Florida at home ... Auburn dropped that series to end the season 13-17 in league play ... The last time Auburn won a series against a team ranked as high as No. 2 was in 2008, when it took two-of-three at home from No. 2 Kentucky.
AUBURN VS. VANDERBILT:
Auburn holds a 79-42 series advantage over Vanderbilt since 1949 and is 41-13 against the Commodores at home ... Vanderbilt has won each of the past three series, including a sweep at Auburn in 2001 when Vanderbilt was No. 1 ... Auburn's last series win was in 2009 when it dropped the first game but rebounded to win the last two, including an 11-10 win in the Sunday series finale.
KOGER LOOKING FOR THE ELUSIVE FIRST WIN:
Sophomore left-handed starting pitcher Daniel Koger is still in search of his first win of the season and is the only weekend starter yet to record one for Auburn ... The Friday night starter all four weekends, Koger has left three games with the lead but has yet to earn a win, though Auburn is 2-2 in his four starts and is averaging 5.8 runs per game in support of him ... Koger's last regular-season win was on April 28, 2012 against Tennessee, a span of seven regular-season starts.
O'NEAL IS PERFECT AT 4-0:
Junior left-handed pitcher Michael O'Neal is in a class of his own in Auburn history ... Standing at 4-0, he is the first first-year pitcher going back to 1983 to have won each of his first four starts ... He is currently 11th in the SEC with a 1.40 ERA and his four wins are tied for second in the SEC ... In 25 2/3 innings, he has allowed just two extra-base hits and is holding opponents to a .204 batting average ... The last player to earn the win in his first four appearances was Jon Luke Jacobs in 2012 while the last time a player in his first year at Auburn won his first four decisions was in 2010 when both Cole Nelson and Slade Smith did it.