Auburn has been a bit of a weird team this year. They've pulled off some big upsets, such as beating Alabama twice on the year, first with a 10-1 victory in a midweek contest and then later 8-1 in Tuscaloosa. The Tigers also have an 8-5 win over LSU and a series win over Kentucky on their résumé. But, Auburn has struggled on the year, the team currently sits at 22-27 and 8-16 in the SEC.
Despite the up and down season, Auburn is hopeful that playing at home and having a coach that is familiar with Mississippi State will be enough to pull the upset and take a series from Mississippi State two years in a row.
Anfernee Grier does a bit of everything for Auburn. Grier has 82 hits and is batting .383 on the year for the Tigers and has 21 extra base hits: 8 doubles, 3 triples, and 10 home runs. Niko Buentello has a .342 batting average with 50 RBIs so far. Buentello, like Grier, has hit 10 home runs, ad Buentello has a total of 25 extra base hits. Jordan Ebert has 69 hits for the season with a .325 batting average. Ebert doesn't have as much power as Buentello and Grier, he only has 2 home runs, but his 30 RBIs and 14 extra base hits are nothing to sneeze at.
Keep an eye out for Joshua Palacios. The junior outfielder has missed 18 games with an injured wrist, but he did pinch-hit for the Tigers in their 7-3 loss to Kennesaw State, so it's possible that we might see him return in some capacity this weekend, particularly if there's a close game.
Outside of these four guys, however, the Tigers don't have many other big hitting threats in the lineup. The Bulldogs, however, are a bit more balanced top to bottom, as many of you already know. Where the Tigers have 4 players in their regular lineups hitting over .300, the Bulldogs have 6. Mississippi State's known commodities of Jake Mangum, Nate Lowe, Jack Kruger, Jacob Robson (who has recently gotten healthy, much like Palacios for Auburn), Reid Humphreys, and Brent Rooker will look to deal more damage than what Auburn's four can inflict.
Another MSU player to keep an eye on would be Gavin Collins. The junior third baseman is hitting .299 and leads the Maroon and White with 8 home runs on the season. Collins has also drawn the fourth most walks for MSU so far with 23. He's behind only Lowe, Kruger, and Robson.
While Auburn can go punch for punch with MSU at the plate, it appears that they don't have the same caliber of pitchers as Mississippi State just yet.
Auburn's definite starters will be Cole Lipscomb (2-3) and Justin Camp (3-3). The Tigers have not yet announced who will be their Sunday starter. Lipscomb has a 5.02 ERA and Camp has a 3.58 ERA. Lipscomp has struck out 49 batters so far and is issuing 1 walk to 3.267 strikeouts. Camp has 45 strikeouts and is walking 1 batter for every 1.875 that he's striking out. So, while Lipscomb has a significantly worse ERA, he's got better command and is striking out considerably more batters than he's walking.
The Bulldogs will counter with Dakota Hudson (7-3) for tonight's game, Austin Sexton (5-2) for the Saturday matchup, and will decide on a game three starter later. It's likely that we'll see Konnor Pilkington (2-1) for the final game of the series. Hudson's ERA sits at 2.80 while Austin Sexton's is at 3.66. Hudson has 85 strikeouts and is walking 1 batter for every 3.269 strikeouts. Sexton has 70 strikeouts and is walking 1 batter for every 3.684 that he strikes out.
How to watch
Game one, tonight's matchup, will be at 6:00 and viewable only on the interwebs.
Game two will be tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 and it'll be on SEC Network.
Game three will be Sunday afternoon at 1:00 and also only able to be seen online.
Other fun stuff
The Bulldogs own the overall series between the two teams 102-88-1, which isn't much of a surprise given that Auburn doesn't have a tremendous baseball program history (a couple years of Bo Jackson and Frank Thomas doesn't make y'all a historically great program) but the Tigers do actually have an advantage when playing at home, leading the Bulldogs 50-36. However, back in 2014, The last time the Bulldogs played in Auburn, State swept the Tigers and threw two 3-0 shut outs against them. MSU outscored Auburn 18-1 that weekend.
If you want a preview for your ears, you can listen to Daniel Black and I discuss the series, among other things, on our latest episode of For Whom the Podcast Tolls.