Troy hosts Auburn tonight

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 3, 2005

The Auburn Tigers make their first trip to Troy's Riddle-Pace Field since a promising outfielder named Bo Jackson was in uniform 20 years ago.

The Atlantic Sun Conference-leading Trojans (29-14 overall, 17-4 A-Sun) start a crucial eight-game homestand against top competition when Auburn (27-19 overall, 9-12 SEC) starts the stretch today at 6 p.m.

The Trojans come into the game with their first three-game losing streak of the season. They were swept at Winthrop last weekend in Rock Hill, N.C.

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&uot;I'm concerned about our ball club,&uot; Troy coach Bobby Pierce said Monday. &uot;We played like a fatigued, beat down ball club. We're a little beat up and we looked mentally and physically drained.&uot;

Troy traveled for a key A-Sun series the weekend before to Boca Raton, Fla. Final exams began late last week and continue through Wednesday. The nonconference trip to North Carolina didn't provide much relief.

&uot;They were very good,&uot; Pierce said. &uot;They probably had the two best starting pitchers we had seen all year. They don't give you extra outs. They could play small ball - get a guy on, hit-and-run, move him around - or they could go deep. They were tough.&uot;

Troy can help itself by doing well on the upcoming homestand, which starts tonight against the Tigers.

&uot;Our next eight games are all at home and all against top 50 RPI teams,&uot; Pierce said. &uot;This home stretch gives us an opportunity to solidify our position as a potential regional team. Really, all the games for all the teams at this point of the season become very important.&uot;

After Auburn, Troy plays a home weekend series against A-Sun second-place team Central Florida, which dropped two of three to Florida Atlantic last weekend. The Trojans then play South Alabama here next Tuesday, and play a three-game conference series against visiting Stetson the following weekend.

It should be easy to focus on tonight's game against Auburn. Troy's home games against the Tigers have been played in Montgomery for years. Pierce credits first-year Auburn coach Tom Slater for agreeing to move the game to Troy.

&uot;I appreciate the Auburn program and coach Tom Slater for recognizing that playing the game in Troy means a lot to our program,&uot; Pierce said.

The game was originally scheduled for March 15, but was postponed by rain.

Pierce said Steven Morelock (4-3, 4.85 ERA), a true freshman left-hander from Abbeville, will start for the Trojans, who were 0-4 in nonconference games in April. Auburn is expected to start sophomore left-hander Mike Felix (0-1, 13.50 ERA).

&uot;Hopefully, Steven will have a good, solid outing and we'll go from there,&uot; Pierce said. &uot;We'll probably see Pete Van Horn. We'll probably see Tony Falls.&uot;

Auburn holds a 30-11 edge in the series. The Tigers are 3-2 in Troy. Josh Bell helped Auburn defeat Troy 12-2 in the first meeting this season in Auburn. Bell drove in five runs in that game.

The Trojans are led by senior catcher Henry Gutierrez in the triple-crown categories of batting average (.382), home runs (14) and runs batted in (51).

Senior outfielder Adam Godwin leads the nation in stolen bases with 69. He needs four steals to set the A-Sun career record.

Auburn is playing its final non-conference game of the season. The Tigers are 18-7 against non-conference opponents this season.

&uot;It's great to have them here on our campus,&uot; Pierce said. &uot;It's great to have a home game like this for our fans.&uot;