Behind enemy bylines with The Auburn Plainsman

McClain Baxley

The Georgia Southern baseball team’s 2019 campaign opens this weekend in Auburn, Alabama with a three game series against the No. 21 Tigers. Ahead of the series, sports editor of The Auburn Plainsman, Nathan King, gave his thoughts on the season-opener.

How much of a drop off will there be in the starting pitching after Casey Mize being drafted first overall?

Auburn is obviously hoping the answer is: none at all. The Tigers have talent to step in for Mize as preseason All-American sophomore Tanner Burns is the most heralded pitcher on the roster. Burns won’t be starting Friday, however, like Mize would always do as the ace. Game 1 will feature junior righty Davis Daniel while Burns will pitch Saturday and JUCO product Kyle Grey will take the mound Sunday. Considering Grey’s 2.73 ERA and 7-1 record last season at his JUCO, Daniel’s 2018 postseason tear for Auburn and Burns’ star potential, don’t expect the runs to skyrocket for opposing teams this season as opposed to last year. Mize was an all-timer, yes, but the pitchers around him were still developing. Now, those from the bullpen have grown into solidified roles and should give head coach Butch Thompson a more balanced mound.

What is the expectation of this year’s Auburn team after the program’s first super regionals run last season?

Thompson would obviously love another Super Regional run, and he’d be the first to tell you that he believes the talent is there to do so. This year’s freshman class is one of the best in the nation and the pitching is near the top in the conference. The SEC will beat up on itself as usual, but if Auburn can slide into another favorable Regional (last season, the Tigers technically played the easiest Regional after being the first team out in terms of host selections) while feeling good about the offense and healthy on the mound, I think that’s all Auburn fans want.

Who replaces All-Sec Tournament outfielder Jay Estes at the plate?

Mize may one day be the best MLB player to come out of Auburn, but junior infielder Will Holland is hoping to give him a run for his money. Holland, who is projected as a top-5 pick in the MLB Draft, is your igniter at the plate. A preseason All-American choice, Holland led the team in runs scored last season with 61 and tied for second in home runs with 12. For the rest of the lineup, Edouard Julien led the team in home runs last year as a freshman. Bombers Conor Davis and Steven Williams are also liable to go yard any at-bat.

How much of a home field advantage is Plainsman Park?

Last season, the difference between home and away for Auburn was monumental; the Tigers were 29-6 at Plainsman Park and 8-15 away from it. Besides the park being one of the prettiest and most innovative in the conference, its fans bring palpable passion and energy to every game. It’s likely just the comfort zone of playing where you practice, in my opinion (especially for baseball), but there is something about Auburn’s signature rally hijinks when it faces a deficit late in the contest that sparks the Tigers at the plate.

What is your series prediction?

I’ll take an Auburn series win, 2-1. I’m not sure which game Georgia Southern takes, but I think it’s going to take time for Thompson’s new faces to get comfortable in their respective roles. Once they do, however, this team is going to be one of conference’s best, in my opinion.

McClain Baxley, The George-Anne Daily Managing Editor, [email protected]