Sunday, March 23, 2008

A better day for Slater, Auburn baseball

Though Auburn lost Sunday's baseball series finale against No. 2 Kentucky, the Tigers won two of three games in the series.

It came at a good time for fourth-year head coach Tom Slater, who needs a breakthrough season after needing a vote of confidence from his boss late last season.

Though I don't put too much stock in message-board chatter, it can give you an idea of where the most ardent members of a fan base stand. A week ago this time, some posters on and stood beyond Slater. They weren't asking IF he should be fired; they were listing possible replacements.

That after Auburn suffered a sweep at Florida. A week ago this time, Auburn was 0-7 against SEC-caliber competition, including a four-game sweep at the hands of non-conference power Florida State.

Now, Auburn fans have something else to ponder. Auburn won a series against a previously unbeaten SEC team. Kentucky was ranked between No. 2 and the teens in various college baseball polls.

A quick Sunday check of message boards shows comments like this: "Sounds like Slater has righted the ship, congrats to staff and players."

Other posts included "Not so fast on Slater" and "I say he has to have a winning SEC record and get to the SEC tourney."

Slater is out of the woods. Last week was too early in the season to declare him outta here, and this week is too early to declare him rehabilitated.

Auburn is 14-9 overall, 2-4 SEC. With 24 regular-season SEC games ahead, the season can still go either way.

But it appears the Kentucky series left more open minds that were closing.

One encouraging sign for Auburn was the success of the Tigers' starting pitchers on Friday and Saturday. Playing a team that was leading the SEC in nearly every significant statistical category, Auburn won Friday's opener 2-0 thanks in part to Grant Dayton's six-inning outing. The Tigers won the Saturday game 7-5 thanks in part to Cory Luckie's an eight-inning outing.

Luke Greinke didn't fare so well Sunday, but Auburn rallied from a 9-2 hole and had the tying run on base in the eighth and ninth innings.

All in all, it was a good weekend for Auburn baseball and its coach.

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