Friday, February 17, 2012

MU @ Auburn Tigers: SEC prequel

FRI 3:00 SAT 3:00 SUN 1:00
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Mizzou opens their final Big 12 season by playing one of their future SEC rivals, the Auburn Tigers.  Toward the end of this season, Mizzou will also play a 2-game set against another SEC rival, Arkansas.

Ironically, neither Auburn nor Arkansas is in the SEC East, Mizzou's designated Division.  So it's entirely possible that neither will be on M"U's schedule next year.

In 2010, Missouri beat Auburn 11-7 in a single game in the Auburn Classic.   Prior to that, the only game between the teams was a Mizzou 5-4 win in 1996.

Auburn will be starting the season still trying to establish who the starters will be at most positions, which could be a good thing for Mizzou's season-opening series, since MU has a starting lineup heavy with returning veterans.

On the other hand, Auburn returns an experienced pitching staff.

Auburn Weather:
FRI 67° Rain 20%
SAT 57° Rain 70%
SUN 51° Rain 30%
These first two weekends of the season, against Auburn and the San Francisco Dons, will be a good test for Missouri's Tigers.  Both of these opponents are pretty much in the same boat as Mizzou as 2012 gets underway - they have plenty of good players but are going to have to prove that they are better than mediocre.  If MU can do well - at least 2-1 each weekend - they'll put everyone on notice that they will be better than the preseason prognosticators predict.

It appears from the Auburn Baseball Schedule that Sunday's game will be available on live streaming video on their All Access channel ($9.95 1-month subscription)

SEC Opening Week Q&A:  Auburn's John Pawlowski (
“They [Mizzou] came down a couple of years ago and played in our tournament. We discussed if they ever wanted to play again, they said ‘sure’ and it happened to be this year. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked if this game counted in the SEC this year. They’ve got a great program and a great tradition. It will be a good test for our club. We’ve got new faces; I’m not really sure how our guys will respond, but I’m anxious to see how they respond to playing somebody different.”
Auburn Baseball Preview (
The Tigers return 19 wins, 13 saves and 395 of its 518 innings pitched off last year's staff. On offense, AU lost seven of its top nine hitters, which combined to hit .296 with 39 home runs and 311 RBI in 2011. . . . "One of the things is we have a lot of unknowns going into the season when you look at the turnover that we have had in our program the last two years, especially after last year," Pawlowski said. "We have a lot of positions that are really up for grabs and that's exciting on one end because it drives guys in practice. The competition has been extremely competitive, guys are competing for jobs."
Read more HERE

Baseball finds youth to move forward (The Plainsman)
When asked about the Tigers rotation, Pawlowski said Varnadore would be the No. 1 pitcher, while junior Slade Smith will take the No. 2 spot, senior Jon Luke Jacobs will get the third starting spot and incoming freshman Daniel Koger will start fourth.
♦ has a good 2-part interview with John Pawloski, Auburn's head coach thatprovides a lot of good information about what to expect from this team.  (Part 1 / Part 2)
Senior right-handed pitcher Derek Varnadore ... was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 17th round of the 2011 MLB Draft, but chose to return to Auburn to finish his senior year. Varnadore was the team’s most reliable pitcher in the 2011 season, so Pawlowski expects him to be a leader in the pitching staff.

With so few returning players that have extended experience on the field, the Tigers are going to be relying a lot on the new players and returning players that didn’t get much playing time in the past.
Auburn's Creede Simpson on the move from outfield to second base (
The only returning everyday player in Auburn's lineup will be starting the 2012 season at a new position. Senior Creede Simpson will be moving from the outfield to second base, Auburn baseball coach John Pawlowski confirmed Thursday. The move will open up an extra outfield spot at a position where the Tigers have plenty of depth, while shoring up the middle infield with a veteran presence.
Read more - and a video of Coach John Pawlowksi - HERE

Tiger pitchers ready to lead (Auburn Undercover)
Varnadore (6-3, 3.68) was chosen by the Florida Marlins in the 17th round of the major league baseball draft, but he chose to return for his senior season. "Obviously, we were excited," said Auburn coach John Pawlowski, going into his fourth season. "He felt like he had more he wanted to accomplish at Auburn. Your program can certainly benefit when you have guys come back that can help you win games. He certainly can do that." Varnadore, who transferred to Auburn from Chattahoochee Valley Community College, quickly established himself as the top man on the staff last season. But he battled shoulder problems and took the fall off from throwing. He's eager and ready now.
New look Tigers ready to play (Auburn Undecover)

Pawlowski's fourth Auburn team is built for speed. Gone are the days of swinging for the fences. Deadened bats have changed things dramatically since the 2010 Tigers led the nation in home runs. "The culture of the game has changed on the offensive side of it," Pawlowski said. "What we've done is go out to get guys who fit in to the style we are trying to create."
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