AUBURN CHEATIN PAAAAAWL... Sorry that's a force of habit at this point. ROLL TIDE. Again, sorry. My SEC training is kicking in.
A few things have changed at Auburn since the last time the Ags swept the War Eagles last March of last year, including everyone's favorite headman, Sunny Golloway, being let go, but here we are beginning SEC play against the Auburn WAR Tigers again.
Last time we saw the Ags play, classless freshman (read "hero") Tyler Ivey was throwing the "horns down" after Michael Barash hit a walk-off home run against the Texas Longhorns this past Tuesday. It was another typical Tuesday night victory against an overmatched, low-RPI team. I have no idea what you're talking about when you say "rivalry."
This weekend, conference play begins for Rob Childress and the Aggies, and they will start out, once again, with Auburn. Last year, they dealt with Auburn's star pitcher, Keegan Thompson, but he won't be available for the duration of the 2016 season due to injury. The Tigers have struggled to begin the 2016 season, meaning a series win on the road to start off conference play should be expected. Regardless, last time the maroon and white took the road this season they dropped their first game of the season, so it will be important to keep an eye on how the Ags handle only their second road series of the year.
Friday, 6:30 pm
Jace Vines (3-0, 2.38) vs. Justin Camp (1-1, 3.46)
Last weekend against Fresno State, Vines was wonderful. He did end up giving up two runs in 6.2 innings, but he was able to keep the Bulldogs largely at bay while facing off against the best opposing pitcher that the Ags have faced all season to this point in LHP Ricky Tyler Thomas. The Friday before that, Vines took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Yale, before being tagged for three runs. It's evident that Vines is one of A&M's better starting arms, and he deserves to be in the starting rotation. Against a decent hitting Auburn team this weekend, Vines should face one of the better hitting teams that he has faced all season. Keep an eye on how he adjusts to this role on the road in his first SEC appearance.
In his last Friday start, Justin Camp gave up five earned against Oral Roberts in 5.2 innings on six hits and three walks. Obviously, that type of performance won't be remotely good enough to even try to combat Will Bolt's A&M offense, but this is a Friday night starter. In total this season, the senior righty is 1-1 with an ERA of 3.46 in 26.0 innings. He's also given up the most home runs in his career in a single season (3) during that period. Going off of just those statistics, the Ags should have plenty of chances to score runs and score them early.
Saturday, 3:00 pm
Tyler Ivey (2-0, 0.77) vs. Casey Mize (1-1, 1.46)
There's not much to be said about Ivey's freshman campaign in the maroon and white, other than he's been brilliant. Having to write that he gave up his first runs of the season last weekend is not as #fun as it was talking about his outstanding scoreless inning streak to start the year, but the fact remains that Ivey has been Childress' top starting pitcher in 2016. It's worth noting that Ivey struck out 12 batters last Saturday even though his scoreless streak ended. Even when he showed a bit of vulnerability during one inning, he still dominated (TWELVE strikeouts. TWELVE.) At this point, it's better to bet on Ivey throwing his best outing of his young career than it is to bet on him having a bad day on the mound.
Casey Mize has been Auburn's best performer in the starting rotation so far this season, and that goes beyond his 1.46 ERA. In his first start of 2016, the freshman righty threw for seven innings of two-run ball against the Michigan State Spartans back on March 5th. Although he was tagged with the loss, he scattered seven hits and a walk over those seven innings. Last weekend against Oral Roberts, Mize picked up his first career win by allowing just one run in seven innings on six hits and a walk, while striking out four. Baseball is definitely a funny game and anything can happen on any given day, but Mize is Auburn's hottest starter. Two freshmen battling on a Saturday sounds like a rather fun second game of conference baseball.
Sunday, 1:00 pm
Kyle Simonds (3-0, 1.17) vs. Cole Lipscomb (1-1, 4.00)
Looking to continue a solid start to his senior campaign, Simonds hopes to build off of a seven inning, one-run (unearned) outing. He only allowed five baserunners (three hits and two walks) in that contest against Fresno State. He's pitching at such a high level right now and having a guy like Simonds to pitch on Sundays is a blessing. The typical Sunday starter will be a guy that will simply eat up innings and allow the bats to go to work. Simonds is not that guy, especially not the way he's pitched the last few weekends. If the Ags happen to be rocking the black jerseys on Sunday, Simonds will see to it that they accomplish the sweep.
Lipscomb is making his fourth start of the year this weekend. So far, he's given up 28 base runners in 18 innings and given up only eight earned runs. On an Auburn team that is very much still trying to find its identity on the diamond, Lipscomb is also attempting to do the same. Last weekend against Oral Roberts, Lipscomb gave up four earned runs in 4.2 innings on seven hits and two walks, while striking out three. He is your typical Sunday starter, and the Ags will have plenty of opportunities to score.
How to Watch/Listen
TV: All three games should be available through SEC Network+
Radio: 1150 AM, 102.7 FM
Live stats: 12thman.com
Other audio: radioaggieland.com