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A spirit that is not afraid

Tigers, Tide face off in regular season finale

The regular season is coming to a close in baseball in the SEC, but teams still have to play one more weekend series to finish things off.

Auburn baseball closes the book on its 2024 season with a three-game set against archrival Alabama in the “Iron Bowl of Baseball” at Plainsman Park. 

This matchup is the first since the two teams met in the 2023 SEC Tournament, one which the Crimson Tide took 7-4. For the Tigers, it is the ending to a gauntlet of a conference slate this year that they have not performed well in.

Despite that, head coach Butch Thompson feels optimistic that his team is not going to give up on this series and that this weekend is just as big as every other one that team has played in this year.

“It’s just a good time to know that it’s going to be OK,” Thompson said. “Put your head down and make it start today. I think that was kind of the theme from Missouri was ‘It starts now’. The growth and the build-back and getting back to what we expect begins now and not waiting for the offseason, not waiting for next year. It starts now.”

The boys from Tuscaloosa enter the series with a 32-19 record after a series win over the LSU Tigers last weekend. Alabama got off to a fast start, scoring four runs in the first three innings of the rubber match on Thursday and holding off a late comeback surge to take the set with a 4-3 win.

The Crimson Tide bats have been a staple of the team’s success this year. That has remained true as of late, especially for William Hamiter. The graduate student has come through in big situations for Alabama, as he racked up five hits and four RBIs over the course of the series.

The starting pitching has proved to be reliable as well. Against LSU, all three of the Crimson Tide’s starting pitchers went into the fifth inning or farther of their respective outings, providing the bullpen with some rest down the stretch.

Meanwhile, Auburn is coming off of its lone series win of the year, taking two games over Missouri last weekend in Columbia. The Tigers used productive days from both Chris Stanfield and Deric Fabian to help lead the offense in this contest, as the two combined for five RBIs in Sunday’s 9-7 game three victory.

The Alabama bats have put its opponents in trouble all year long. Entering this weekend, the offense ranks fourth in the conference in batting average at .304 and third in hits with 531 on the season. Gage Miller leads the charge on the team with a .376 batting average.

On top of the hitting strengths that the Crimson Tide have, their catchers are a force on the defensive side. Alabama has caught 19 runners stealing over the course of the year, which is tied for first in the SEC. The players behind the dish have also only allowed three passed balls as well, which is the least amount given up amongst the league.

The Crimson Tide will send out senior left-hander Greg Farone on Thursday. Farone comes into the rivalry set posting a 4-2 record with a 4.22 earned run average. In his most recent start against LSU, he went 4.1 innings, giving up five runs on six hits while striking out and walking one batter each. 

Alabama will start freshman left-hander Zane Adams and junior right-handed pitcher Ben Hess to finish out the series on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Auburn is set to send to pitch almost the same set of starters as it did in last week’s series. The Tigers will throw Tanner Bauman on the hill in game one and go to Chase Allsup again for game two on Friday. No starter has been announced for the game three finale on Saturday.

The three Auburn arms must be able to go both long distances and minimally harmed in the outings in order to benefit this squad. With the bullpen having had the struggles it has had for most of the season and the Crimson Tide having had massive success at the plate, it will be crucial to rest as many arms as possible throughout this weekend.

On the offensive side, the Tigers must rely on their bats to get hot quickly, despite that not being a regularity this season. Players like Ike Irish and Caden Green have been hot as of late. The two combined for 12 RBIs over the course of the series, being a major part of the team’s run production. 

If the Alabama pitchers can come out hot on the mound and keep Auburn bats cold, it should be able to rely on its offense to do what it has all season and pose dominance at the plate. Look for the Crimson Tide to make a statement early on in enemy territory.

The rivalry games are also an opportunity for the Tigers to end a forgetful season on a high note, as a win over their nemesis from Tuscaloosa would mean everything at the end of this 2024 campaign.

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The first game of this series will be on Thursday, where first pitch is set for 6 p.m. CST at Plainsman Park. Game two will be on Friday at 6 p.m. CST, while the game three finale will be on Saturday at 5 p.m. CST. Games one and two will be broadcast on SEC Network+, while game three is set to be on the SEC Network.

Tyler Raley | Sports Writer

Tyler Raley is a junior from Birmingham, Alabama, majoring in journalism.

Twitter: @traley34

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