AUBURN | Heading into its biggest series of the season, No. 10 Auburn will likely be without one of its top pitchers against No. 14 Arkansas.
Auburn coach Butch Thompson called Casey Mize, the SEC’s strikeout leader, doubtful for this weekend. Keegan Thompson will move back into the Friday night role and Davis Daniel will move from Sunday to Saturday.
Sunday’s starter is TBA and will depend on how much Butch Thompson uses a key group of relievers — Cole Lipscomb, Andrew Mitchell, Calvin Coker and Daniel Robert — the first two games. Ryan Watson, who started against South Carolina three Sundays ago when Keegan was out, is also an option.
Dakota Sumpter/Auburn athletics
“We'll make a better decision once we play the first two games,” Butch Thompson said. “If we hadn't had an opportunity to use one or two of those, going TBA Sunday allows us to draw who we think is the next best man up.”
The Tigers are 28-11 overall and tied for second in the SEC West with a 10-5 conference record while the Razorbacks enter the series with the best record in the SEC at 31-8 and 11-4.
Arkansas is second in the SEC with a .298 average, leads with 53 home runs, is fifth with a 3.36 ERA and third with a .977 fielding percentage. Staff ace Blane Knight is one of the SEC’s best starters and five batters have six or more home runs.
“I think we're going to see a real Friday night guy,” Butch Thompson said. “They’ve got left-handed power, right-handed power, power top to bottom. If I'm trying to draw out the positive from our side, if you look at SEC play, our pitchers have walked the fewest batters by far. That's one way to avoid the three-run homer.
“The way you attack guys with power is down in the zone and don't run from it. We'll see how that matches up, the fewest walks versus their power.”
Jr. RHP Keegan Thompson (4-1, 1.29)
So. RHP Blaine Knight (6-1, 1.89)
Fr. RHP Davis Daniel (3-2, 4.00)
Jr. RHP Trevor Stephan (4-2, 2.96)
Auburn is ninth in hitting (.281), last in home runs (16), second in doubles (80), 10th in pitching (3.86) and eighth in fielding (.975). The Tigers are in the midst of a power surge with six home runs in the last five games after hitting just 10 in the first 34.
Jonah Todd is pacing the Tigers at the plate with a .385 average and 38 runs scored. He also has 12 doubles and 21 RBI. Freshman Conor Davis is hitting .419 with four doubles, one home run and 10 RBI over the last 10 games.
While Auburn’s starting pitching has allowed just two runs over the last four games, the bullpen has an 11.32 ERA over the same stretch.
“In the two get-better categories, the offense has stepped up and showed us something over the last week and the bullpen hasn't turned the corner yet or gotten back on track yet. We’re still going to encourage them to keep getting better,” Butch Thompson said.
Game times at Plainsman Park are 6 p.m. CT Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Friday and Saturday’s games are on SECN+ and WatchESPN while Sunday’s game will be carried on the SEC Network.