The Tigers are ranked No. 23 in both the preseason NCBWA Division I poll and ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
Head coach John Pawlowski, first baseman Kevin Patterson and pitcher Cory Luckie stopped by before Thursday's basketball game to talk to the media. Here's a little bit of what they had to say:
- "Obviously know it's time for college baseball when the temperature starts to crash," Pawlowski joked.
- Auburn, which led the country in home runs last year, won't be as reliant on the long ball this year, especially after losing Hunter Morris, Brian Fletcher and Trent Mummey to the pros. Pawlowski said they'll be more of a hit-and-run team and do plenty of bunting. "Our offensive game is going to have to evolve and develop as season goes on," Pawlowski said.
- Pawlowski said the Tigers will have 17 new players, although most of the lineup will be of guys who got a good number of at bats last season.
- Pawlowski gave a tentative lineup: RT Creede Simpson, CF Justin Fradejas, LF is "wide open" with Justin Bryant/Brooks Beisner the frontrunners, 3B Dan Gamache, SS Casey McElroy/Zach Alvord, 2B Justin Hargett, 1B Patterson/Patrick Savage, C Tony Caldwell, DH will be a "revolving door."
- Starting rotation is shaping up as Luckie, Slade Smith, then a number of guys for the third spot, including freshman Andrew Morris, long reliever Bradley Hendrix and junior college transfer Will Irvin.
- Of the freshmen, Pawlowski said some arms will be key in the bullpen, including Ethan Wallen, Dillon Ortman and Morris. Alvord, an infielder from Alpharetta, Ga., who was one of the Tigers' top recruits, could also be a factor somewhere.
- There are new regulations on the metal bats college players can use this year. It'll probably cut down on some of the home runs that have pervaded the college game. Naturally, Patterson and Luckie had different opinions about it. "From the pitching side of it, we love it," Luckie said. "You can really pitch inside with it. You can really attack hitters now. You can really pitch how pitching's meant to be. Guys won't hit a bloop home run."
- Patterson can hit the ball a long way, regardless. "I don't think it's going to matter to KP much," Luckie said.
- The Tigers surprised a lot of folks by winning the West last season. Pawlowski doesn't want to make it a one-year thing. "We want to go back-to-back to the SEC Tournament," he said.