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FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2007
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Auburn tries to rebound from lost baseball weekend

By Bradley Handwerger
bhandwerger@decaturdaily.com · 340-2462

Auburn's baseball team entered Southeastern Conference play as one of the top 10 teams in the country.

Then reality set in.

It may be cliché, but in the SEC, you have to show up every day with your best.

Against Georgia, the team with the worst overall record in the SEC, Auburn didn't do that. As such, the Tigers were swept at Georgia a week ago.

Now Auburn (18-6, 0-3 SEC) hosts Florida (11-13, 1-2), the team with the second-worst league record.

Yet, Auburn head coach Tom Slater isn't worried. Three games don't make or break a season.

"We don't live in the past," Slater said. "We've got 27 SEC games left. I believe in this club. I believe in these players, and they believe in themselves."

It will help Auburn that Mike Bianucci returns to the lineup after a week's absence because of the flu.

Through 21 games, the Tigers' No. 4-hole hitter is batting .351 with six homers and 21RBIs.

Now he's paired again with Josh Donaldson (.402, 33 RBIs), Auburn's leading hitter who bats in front of Bianucci.

In the series with Georgia, the Tigers were hitting, just not scoring. Auburn banged out 25 hits in three games against the Bulldogs, but lost all three games after scoring a combined seven runs.

"Donaldson and Bianucci hitting 3-4 is as good a 3-4 as any in the country," Slater said. "(Bianucci's absence) affects Donaldson, and it affects the hitters behind them and in front of them."

It's not like the Gators are devoid of talent, however. Several players who were on Florida's 2005 team that made it to the national title series before losing to Texas are still on the team.

Matt LaPorta leads that contingent. The senior infielder was the 2005 SEC player of the year, and came back to college after turning down the pro riches. He leads the Gators at the plate, batting .389 with 14 RBIs.

On the mound, Florida relies on Bryan Augenstein, their Friday starter. He's 2-3 with a 3.59 ERA.

"He's their No. 1 pitcher and has been for two years," Slater said. "He's an upper 80s sinkerball guy with a pretty good slider."

Nevertheless, Slater isn't pressuring his team. He's not telling them that this is a must-win series for the Tigers.

"We're not putting any extra pressure on them," Slater said. "We're certainly disappointed that we didn't win any games last weekend."

Auburn baseball

  • Friday’s game:Florida (11-13, 1-2 SEC) at Auburn (18-6, 0-3), 6 p.m.

  • Saturday’s game:Florida at Auburn, 2 p.m.

  • Sunday’s game:Florida at Auburn, 2 p.m.

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