by Knox Bardeenknoxbardeen@csssports.com@knoxbardeen
Five of the six Southeastern Conference baseball teams inthe Western Division are within two games of the division lead. Two of thoseteams, Alabama (30-20, 12-12 SEC) and Auburn (26-23, 11-13 SEC), will face offat Plainsman Park in Auburn, Ala. this weekend for a three-game series.Pitching for Alabama on Saturday will be junior Adam Morgan. The lefty has a 5-4 recordwith a 3.84 ERA and is coming off an excellent performance last Saturdayagainst Louisiana State when he pitched eight scoreless innings. Morgan leadsthe Crimson Tide in innings pitched (75) and strikeouts (60) and has beenhelpful to the Alabama bullpen, throwing at least six innings in each of hislast nine starts.Auburn will send junior right-hander Derek Varnadore to the mound on Saturday. Varnadore has a 5-2record with a 3.41 ERA and has thrown two shutouts this season for the Tigers,one of which was last Saturday against Georgia when Varnadore struck out sevenand allowed just five Bulldog hits. Varnadore has made more starts (11) and hasmore strikeouts (62) than any other Auburn pitcher this season.Saturdays game will begin at 1 p.m. and will be broadcaston CSS. Prior to first pitch, the Tigers will recognize their eight seniors whowill be playing their final home games this weekend.Heading into the weekend, Alabama sits in a tie on top ofthe SEC Western Division, with Auburn one game back. Throughout history, Auburnand Alabama have met 260 times with the Crimson Tide leading the all-timeseries 142-118.
- If Alabama wins out (three games against Auburnand three against South Carolina) it will finish the season with 18 wins, a tiefor fewest wins to clinch the Western Division Championship.
- Alabama scores 5.2 runs per game, compared toAuburns 5.9. However, Alabamas team ERA of 3.60 is almost a full point and ahalf lower than Auburns 5.09.- As of late, Alabama catcher Brock Bennett has enjoyed weekend play. Over the last two weekendsBennett is 13-for-26 (.500) with at least two hits in each of the six weekendgames against LSU and Mississippi State.
- Home-field advantage is huge when these twoteams meet. In each of the last four series the home team has won the series.
- Auburns CaseyMcElroy and Dan Gamache areon-base machines. McElroy has reached base safely in 45 of the teams 49 gamesthis season, while Gamache has reached base in 44 of his 47 games.
- If Auburn catcher Tony Caldwell throws out one base runner this weekend, hell jumpinto a tie with Casey Dunn on theAuburn all-time list for throwing out would-be base stealers. Caldwell hasthrown out 56 runners throughout his career and ranks No. 2 on the all-timelist behind Dunn.