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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn hosts Yale in first home series of the season

Mar 14, 2021; Auburn, AL, USA; Overall view during the national anthem before the game between Auburn and Little Rock at Plainsman Park. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood/AU Athletics
Mar 14, 2021; Auburn, AL, USA; Overall view during the national anthem before the game between Auburn and Little Rock at Plainsman Park. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood/AU Athletics

In its first three-game series of the year, Auburn (3-1) poses as Yale’s first baseball opponent since 2020. The two squads meet in a weekend series in Plainsman Park that spans from Friday to Sunday, part of the Tigers’ 10 games in a 12-day stretch.

When Yale faces Auburn on Friday, it begins its 2022 season. The Bulldogs have not played since March 11, 2020, when the remainder of their season was canceled due to issues with the COVID-19 virus. With the pandemic ongoing, the Ivy League also opted not to play baseball in 2021.

Although the opponent’s play is hard to predict, Auburn enters the game a bit more battle tested in recent history. The Tigers have already played four contests this season, and they played a full schedule in 2021, in which they went 25-27.

Most recently, Auburn eased to a 13-1 victory over Troy to open its season in Plainsman Park on Wednesday night. 

The offense showed off in the game, racking up 13 runs on 13 hits. Five of nine of the Auburn starters recorded multiple hits on the night, including third baseman Blake Rambusch, who had a team-leading three base hits.

The Tiger also produced some power in its first game back in a college stadium. Two balls were sent out of the yard by the Tigers, starting off with a first-inning grand slam by right fielder Bryson Ware. Ware went on to record a career-best six RBIs.

In the next inning, first baseman Sonny DiChiara then added to the noise with a 434-foot moon shot to put them up 7-1 and give the pitching an early advantage.

The run padding didn’t prove to be necessary, though, as Auburn kept Troy scoreless after surrendering one run in the first inning. 

After starting pitcher Tommy Sheehan gave up a run, a hit and three free passes, he went three innings. The Tigers then turned to their bullpen, which turned in six innings of work and allowed no runs on four hits and a walk. 

Hayden Mullins went first, pitching two frames in a winning effort before turning it over to Mason Barnett, Brooks Fuller, Parker Carlson and Nate Larue, who threw an inning each.

Although they used six arms, no pitcher threw as much as 45 pitches in the game. This might prove to be valuable when the Tigers play an onslaught of nine games in nine days starting on Friday.

Auburn carries a three-game winning streak into the weekend set with Yale. Before taking down the Trojans, Auburn ended its opening weekend in Arlington with wins over Kansas State and then-No. 12 Texas Tech.

In their season opener, the Tigers suffered their first and only blemish of the campaign so far in a 3-0 shutout at the hands of Oklahoma. The game with the Sooners was scoreless until the bottom of the seventh inning, when Oklahoma launched a two-run bomb before tacking on another run on a double play in the eighth.

The three runs posted by the Sooners is the most Auburn has given up in a game thus far in the season. It has surrendered just one run in each of its three matches since then.

Auburn has seen three different starters take the hill in their four games. Sheehan, the transfer from Notre Dame, pitched just the first inning against Oklahoma and threw three innings versus Troy. Joseph Gonzalez and Trace Bright both went five innings in their starts against Texas Tech and Kansas State, and neither allowed an earned run.

Look to see new faces on the hill to start games this weekend, such as Mason Barnett and Mullins, who have both had two relief outings under their belt already. Barnett has pitched two scoreless frames, and Mullins has allowed three runs in four innings.

The offense has improved in each game, scoring zero, two, 12 and then 13 runs in that order. The hit total rocketed from three against Oklahoma and Texas Tech to 13 in its last two matchups with Kansas State and Troy.

Auburn has also been able to test out its run game early in the season. It has converted on 5-of-6 stolen base attempts, with two a piece coming in its last two double-digit wins. The only game Auburn was unsuccessful in a steal, it lost. This could be a key to keep a watch out for this weekend.

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With a series sweep of Yale, Auburn has the opportunity to start the season 6-1 and move into the month of March on a six-game winning streak.

All three games will be streamed on SEC Network-plus. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. CST on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday in Plainsman Park’s first weekend series of 2022.

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