Baseball Preview: No. 21 Tennessee at No. 15 Auburn

Vols OF/INF Al Soularie / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. 21 Tennessee hits the road to open Southeastern Conference play this weekend against No. 15 Auburn at Plainsman Park.

The Volunteers will look to win their SEC opener for the fourth time in the last five years when they travel down to Auburn to face off against the Tigers on the Plains.

UT is coming off a midweek sweep of UNC Asheville on Tuesday and Wednesday to improve to 17-1 on the year, which is tied with the 1997 SEC Eastern Division championship team for the best record through 18 games in program history.

Broadcast Info
Friday’s series opener and Sunday’s series finale will be streamed online via SEC Network+ and the WatchESPN app. Andy Burcham (PxP) and Mark Fuller (Analyst) will have the call for those contests.

Saturday’s game will be televised on the SEC Network with Clay Matvick (PxP), VFL Chris Burke (Analyst) and Ben McDonald (Analyst) calling the action.

Fans can also listen to Tennessee play-by-play man John Wilkerson call all three games for the Vol Network on FM 99.1 / AM 990 as well as online at UTSports.com.

Projected Starting Pitchers
Friday: RHP Garrett Stallings (4-0, 1.63 ERA) vs. RHP Tanner Burns (3-0, 0.67 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Zach Linginfelter (4-0, 0.75 ERA) vs. LHP Jack Owen (3-0, 0.00 ERA)
Sunday: RHP Will Neely (2-1, 6.16 ERA) vs. TBD

Series History vs. Auburn
Overall: Auburn leads, 92-39
In Knoxville: Auburn leads, 40-20
In Auburn: Auburn leads, 52-19
Neutral Sites: N/A
Last Meeting: April 15, 2017 in Knoxville (L, 8-1)

The Vols will look to secure their first series win over the Tigers since May of 2011 and their first series win on the road at Auburn since March of 2005.

Need to Know

  • The Volunteers’ 17-1 record is the best in program history entering SEC play and is tied for the best start overall through 18 games (1997).
  • Tennessee earned another series win last weekend, taking two of three games from Fresno State. The Bulldogs did take the series finale to snap the Vols’ 15-game winning streak to start the season. The streak was the longest to begin a season in program history and was tied for the second-longest overall winning streak as well (1951, 1994, 1997, 2004).
  • UT is ranked in five of the six major college baseball polls this week, marking the first time the Vols have been ranked in five polls in the same week since March 23, 2014.
  • The Big Orange are eighth in the country with a .424 on-base percentage and lead the nation with 122 walks.
  • This weekend’s series will feature two of the top pitching staffs in the SEC and the country. Entering the series, Auburn ranks fourth nationally in ERA (2.14) while Tennessee ranks sixth (2.19). The starting pitchers for Friday’s and Saturday’s games are a combined 14-0 this season.
  • UT is coming off of its best week of the season offensively. The Big Orange batted .320 as a team and scored 29 runs (9.75 runs/game) while also hitting six home runs and 16 extra-base hits over their four games last week.
  • Junior college transfer Alerick Soularie has continued his emergence for the Vols. The sophomore has belted five home runs over the past five games, including one in each of UT’s midweek wins over UNC Asheville this week. Soularie ranks third in the SEC with six long balls this season. He also leads the SEC with a .854 slugging percentage.
  • Veteran third baseman Andre Lipcius hit his second grand slam of the season in last Saturday’s win and led the team with 10 RBI for the week. He also hit a home run in Sunday’s loss to the Bulldogs and Tuesday’s win over UNC Asheville. He is the first UT player to hit two grand slams in a season since Blake Forsythe in 2010.
  • Leadoff man Justin Ammons has reached base in 17 of the team’s 18 games this season and 26 of the past 27 games dating back to last year. He also leads the team with 20 runs scored.
  • Saturday starter Zach Linginfelter was lights out once again in his lone appearance last week. The junior right hander tossed six shutout innings in UT’s Game Two win over Fresno State, allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out four. Linginfelter is now 4-0 on the year and leads all starting pitchers on the team with a 0.75 ERA.
  • Sophomore lefty Garrett Crochet struck out five in 1.2 innings of relief to earn his third save of the year in Tennessee’s series-clinching win over the Bulldogs. The Ocean Springs, Miss., native has given up just one run and five hits while striking out 25 in 13.1 innings of work this season.

Opponent Scout
No. 15 Auburn Tigers (15-2)

  • 2018 Record: 43-23 (15-15 SEC)
  • 2018 Postseason: NCAA Gainesville Super Regional (1-2)
  • Auburn was picked to finish fourth in the Western Division of the SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll after finishing in a tie for third in the Western Division last season.
  • The Tigers are coached by Butch Thompson, who is in his fourth season leading the program. He has led AU to a 118-84 record since taking over as head coach in October of 2015.
  • Auburn is ranked in all six major college baseball polls this week with its highest ranking being No. 15 in the Perfect Game poll. The Tigers are ranked No. 17 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, four spots ahead of Tennessee.
  • The Tigers lost 15 players from last season’s Super Regional team but did return starting pitcher Tanner Burns, who was a Preseason All-SEC first-team selection. Burns, a sophomore right hander, enters the series with a 3-0 record and 0.68 ERA (sixth in the SEC). He also ranks second in the conference with 39 strikeouts.
  • Auburn also boasts another one of the league’s top pitchers in sophomore lefty Jack Owen, who owns a 2-0 record and leads the SEC with a perfect 0.00 ERA. Owen has allowed just 14 hits and one unearned run in 25.0 innings of work this season.
  • The duo of Rankin Woley and Edouard Julien lead the Tigers offensively. Woley leads the team with a .348 batting average, 23 hits, six doubles and 18 RBI while Julien leads the team with 19 runs scored and five home runs.

On Deck for the Vols
Tennessee will finish its four-game road trip with a midweek contest at ETSU on Tuesday 6 p.m. ET in Johnson City. The matchup will be the first of two for the Vols against the in-state Bucs this season.

-UT Athletics

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