Auburn dropped to 0-6 in SEC play this past weekend. The conference schedule has proved to be a different animal than the Tigers' non-conference slate that saw the team post an 11-5 record. In the first five innings of Auburn's six SEC contests, the Tigers have been outscored 29-8, digging holes that have been difficult to climb out of.
Auburn has suffered through a number of injuries to the pitching staff. It was a deep position group with a wealth of experience entering the season, but a finger injury to Jack Owen before the season began and a foot injury to Richard Fitts have left the pair as limited participants at the start of a challenging stretch of the schedule. Key relief pieces such as Carson Skipper and Hayden Mullins have been on the mend, as well, leaving the Tigers with a starting rotation of green pitchers that have little to no experience in a conference loaded with talent.
Without a pitching unit that can consistently shut down opposing offenses, the Tigers' bats have been inconsistent at driving in runs. Though Auburn's hitters have found success, such as the bottom of the 9th inning in Friday's game against Kentucky, it hasn't been enough. The Tigers have lost five of their six SEC games by just two runs or less.
Tyler Miller continued his season-long tear, picking up his fourth double of the year and netting four hits in eight at-bats. He was also walked six times and hit a home run on Friday, his eighth of the year.
Though off-balance after six conference games, shortstop Ryan Bliss knows the Tigers are close to getting back in the win column. "We're a great team and we've just got to find a way to get those runs in."
"The good times are about to come."
Auburn fans will surely be hoping against hope that Bliss is right, because the schedule does not let up from here. Auburn hits the road again next weekend for a crucial series against Arkansas, followed by a home clash with Mississippi State starting April 9th. Both teams were in the 2019 College World Series alongside the Tigers, and both are consensus top-five teams across most polls.
If the Tigers can steal one of those two series, it would mean big things for the remainder of Auburn's schedule. The SEC is chock-full of championship-caliber programs, and Butch Thompson's Tigers have their sights set on joining them.