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FRIDAY, MARCH 30, 2007
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AU breaks slide but still needs SEC win

By Bradley Handwerger
bhandwerger@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

After beginning the season as one of the nation's hottest college baseball teams, Tom Slater's Auburn club has flat-lined in Southeastern Conference play.

The Tigers have not picked up an SEC win.

So when Auburn (19-9, 0-6 SEC) won at Mercer recently in a midweek game, Slater and his Tigers couldn't have been happier.

"It was good to go get a win," Slater said. "Mercer is a quality team and to go to there park and get a win (was big)."

One win, especially one out of conference, doesn't change the fact that Auburn has lost 16 straight SEC games, including all six this year.

But don't ask Slater about that streak — he gets a little unnerved.

"We don't talk about last year," Slater said. "Last year's team stunk. That was last year, and that has nothing to do with this year."

Auburn can change all of that this weekend when it hosts No. 13 Ole Miss (19-8, 3-3).

The Tigers are 3-3 against the Rebels over the past two seasons.

If the Tigers are going to break out of their conference funk, they're going to have to do it against a team that can swing the bat.

That could be a problem.

Auburn's ERA has ballooned from 3.22 in non-conference games to 5.26 against SEC teams.

Slater is hoping to help the bullpen out by moving regular Friday starter Bryan Woodall into a relief role.

"He has the capability of bouncing back," Slater said. "Our other guys in the rotation don't have that type of arm."

Woodall is 2-1 with a 3.23 ERA. He has given up 20 runs after facing a team-high 153 batters.

Ole Miss will counter with strong pitching and good hitting. Starters Will Kline and Lance Lynn have a combined 107 strikeouts with only 31 walks.

As a team, the Rebels carry a stout 2.88 ERA.

At the plate, the Henry brothers lead Ole Miss. Justin Henry is second in the SEC with a .461 batting average, while brother Jordan is batting .358.

They've combined for 38 of Ole Miss' 155 runs and driven in 30 more.

Before the 10-game SEC losing streak to end the 2006 season, you have to go all the way back to the 1983 season to find a time when Auburn lost six SEC games in a row.

That season, Auburn ended that bad run by beating LSU two straight.

Auburn baseball

  • Friday's game:Ole Miss (19-8, 3-3 SEC) at Auburn (19-9, 0-6), 6 p.m.

  • Saturday's game:Ole Miss at Auburn, 2 p.m.

  • Sunday's game:OleMiss at Auburn, 1:30 p.m.

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