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A spirit that is not afraid

Tigers head into Gator Territory to face No. 2 Florida

After a dominant performance against North Alabama on Tuesday, Auburn is prepared for its weekend series against the No. 2 Florida Gators (22-4, 5-1). 

“I’m excited to get what we think is our best lineup back, and now, we’re trying to couple that with our best setup, going into a tough environment," said head coach Butch Thompson. "I look forward to seeing Florida’s new ballpark. It was ‘18 the last time our program had been down there for the Super Regional. So I can’t wait to get down there and compete against a great ball club with our lineup intact and a new setup on the mound.”

In 26 games, Florida sits at the top of several rankings for its electric offense and strong defense. Offensively, the Gators sit at third in hits (296), fourth in runs (260) and second in home runs (61 in 26 games). Defensively, Florida is ranked fourth in shutouts with four, 17th for its strikeout-to-walk ratio at 3.00 and 26th in hits allowed per nine innings (7.63). 

With 105 at-bats and a .400 batting average, sophomore Jac Caglianone has 42 hits, 32 runs, seven doubles and 17 home runs with 38 RBIs. Close behind Caglianone, junior Josh Rivera has recorded 39 hits, 37 runs, four doubles, 11 home runs and 39 RBIs with 97 at-bats and a .402 batting average. 

Caglianone will not only make an appearance in the batter’s box this weekend, but he will be the starting pitcher for the Gators on Sunday (3-0, 3.41). Junior Brandon Sproat (4-0, 3.60) opens on Friday, and junior Hurston Waldrep (4-1, 4.78) will pitch on Saturday. 

“Thinking of our pitching, this will be a weekend where we try something different with that body of work against a great ball club on the road, and this is our second chance to do that,” Thompson said. “As we start walking through this thing, I’m feeling like we’re just now getting to our best lineup, and now, we can create our best setup that includes the pitching staff.”

Sophomore Will Cannon opens the series for the Tigers on Friday. Cannon (2-0, 2.29) earned his spot with a great performance over the past weeks, recording 21 strikeouts and 10 walks. 

“It’s just another game. That’s what we keep talking about. We can’t rise to (Florida). We just have to play our game, and I know everybody behind has confidence in me,” Cannon said. “I have confidence in everybody else, and everybody in that locker room believes in one another. So, it’s gonna be a good time.”

Sophomore John Armstrong earned his starting position on Saturday, and graduate Tommy Vail will finish on the mound for the Tigers on Sunday. 

“Whether we get the result or not that we want, the process of how we act and carry ourselves, getting into the ball game, and then play another series is what I’m really intentional about evaluating and watching," Thompson said. "So there can be some improvements there, and there should be, and I think there will be. We built last year’s team off of the two concepts of self-confidence and no excuses.”

The series begins on Friday at 5:30 p.m. CST on the SEC Network+. 

Caitlyn Griffin | Sports Reporter

Caitlyn Griffin is a sophomore from Huntsville, Alabama, majoring in journalism. She started with The Plainsman in fall 2022. 

Twitter: @caitlyngrif99

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