Auburn Welcomes Alabama to Plainsman Park Sporting a "Familiar Look"
Casey Mize returns to the weekend rotation for first time since April 14 (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Wade Rackley)
For the first time since the March 24-26 series at Georgia, the Auburn pitching rotation will return to its’ familiar look. After missing the last two weekend series, Casey Mize is set to return to the rotation this weekend. With all three weekend starters healthy, Coach Butch Thompson elected to return to his season-opening weekend rotation of Keegan Thompson (Friday), Casey Mize (Saturday), and Davis Daniel (Sunday). “After all these adjustments here, it’s nice to get back to our original starting rotation,” said Butch Thompson this week when announcing the starting rotation. Mize has not thrown in a live game since April 13 at Tennessee, when he pitched six complete innings, allowing three hits and striking out seven. In his two prior starts, the sophomore threw 16 innings and 233 pitches (9 IP, 120 pitches vs South Carolina, 7 IP, 113 pitches vs Texas A&M). Fatigue and soreness were the reasoning behind missing a start at home against Arkansas, and an altered schedule last weekend at Mississippi State played a role in him not getting a nod for the second week in a row. There is no doubt in Butch Thompson’s mind that his Saturday starter is ready to return to the hill. “He was at full velocity on Tuesday. He faced five batters on our game field against our hitters, and he looked like he hadn’t pitched to hitters in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, we can work this week to get our command back, but from a health standpoint, it made me comfortable seeing him face our hitters, and I think, more importantly, it made Casey know that he is ready to go back out and start a game.” The series with Alabama will be the first time since the Georgia series March 24-26 that Auburn has shown this particular sequence of the rotation, and the first time since the Tennessee series April 13-15 that Thompson, Mize, and Daniel have thrown in the same weekend. Another player that is expected to return from injury is shortstop Luke Jarvis, according to Butch Thompson. Jarvis missed the series at Mississippi State due to back spasms. “I think Luke Jarvis is ready to play. He’s chomping at the bit to play.” For the second week in a row, an Auburn Tiger was named SEC Player of the Week. After Josh Anthony’s solid week against Kennesaw State and Arkansas April 18-23, Jonah Todd followed by hitting .571 in four games last week against Troy and Mississippi State. He recorded four RBI in the doubleheader sweep last Saturday at Mississippi State and reached base eight times over the two games. Over the last five games, Todd is batting .500 with six RBI, nine hits including a double and a triple. Dylan Ingram continues to swing a hot bat. The junior from Pike Road has hit three home runs and has picked up eight RBI over the last five games. He has two of the team’s three grand slam home runs on the season, one of those came last weekend against Mississippi State. SCOUTING THE OPPONENT Alabama has had a tough 2017 season, entering the series at 15-29, 2-19 in SEC play. The Crimson Tide owns wins over South Carolina and Arkansas, but zero series wins. Alabama has lost 13 conference games in a row dating back to April 2nd. Their last SEC win came at home against then #21 Arkansas, 7-1. Their record is just an indication of how much has gone wrong this season for Alabama. While the team is 2-19, the Tide is accustomed to playing tight games. Last weekend, Alabama lost game three to LSU by one run, in 11 innings. The series prior, Alabama lost all three games to Mississippi State by one run, including a 13-inning game in the series finale where the Crimson Tide had the Bulldogs down to their final out in the 11th inning before a run scored on an error, continuing the game. Alabama has played in 15 games that have been decided by one run, and have won only three of them. In relevance to this series, Alabama is 2-9 in true road games this season and 2-11 against top-25 opponents. Auburn and Alabama have played seven mutual opponents for a total of seventeen games, Auburn holds an 11-5 record against those teams, while Alabama is 6-11 (Presbyterian, Jacksonville State, Samford, UAB, South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State). Alabama has announced two starters for this weekend’s series at Auburn, Nick Eicholtz will go for Alabama on Friday, while Jake Walters will pitch on Saturday, Sunday’s starter has yet to be announced. Eicholtz is 1-2 with a 5.91 ERA in 10 starts this season. He has walked 28 batters while striking out 24 in 45.1 IP. Eicholtz has not recorded a win since February 17 against Presbyterian. After the win, he started seven games without recording a decision before taking the loss on April 21 at Mississippi State. Walters is the ace for Alabama, striking out 51 batters. The junior right-hander has a 3.99 ERA, and a 4-4 record in 10 starts. Walters started the Capital City Classic against Auburn on March 28 at Montgomery’s Riverwalk Stadium, working an inning and allowing a hit and striking out one. Walters’ longest outing of the season came last weekend at LSU, where he pitched 7.1 innings, striking out six and allowing five hits and three earned runs. Four players are hitting above .300 for Alabama to this point in the season, led by Kyle Kauffman’s .315. Chandler Taylor is the most productive batter in this lineup, with 12 home runs and 28 RBI. Chandler Avant, Cobie Vance, and Cody Henry are each batting over .300. Henry leads the team in RBI with 31 and is second in long balls with eight. Avant leads in hits with 56 and has a team-high 13 doubles. Vance is tied for second on the team with 20 hits in SEC play. #4 Auburn battles in-state rival Alabama beginning Friday at 6 PM at Plainsman Park. FRIDAY- 6 PM WTGZ 93.9 FM (Rod Bramblett, Paul Ellen) THOMPSON (5-2, 2.05 ERA) vs EICHOLTZ (1-2, 5.91 ERA) SATURDAY- 2 PM WTGZ 93.9 FM (Rod Bramblett, Paul Ellen) MIZE (6-1, 1.23 ERA) vs WALTERS (4-4, 3.99 ERA) SUNDAY- 4 PM WTGZ 93.9 FM (Rod Bramblett, Andy Burcham) DANIEL (3-2, 4.97 ERA) vs TBA