AUBURN - John Pawlowski, heading into his fifth season as Auburn baseball coach, sees more depth on the pitching staff, experience in the field and strength at the plate.
Centerfielder Ryan Tella is a preseason All-American
With a newly put-together coaching staff, it adds up to an optimistic outlook as the season rushes closer. The opening four-game series against Maine is set for Feb. 15-17 at Plainsman Park, with a doubleheader on Saturday. The Tigers started preseason practice last Friday.
Pawlowski will concentrate on coaching the pitchers, which is where he built his reputation. Former Auburn All-American Gabe Gross will coach the hitters and run the offense. Ty McGehee, who spent the past three years as a volunteer assistant, has assumed a fulltime role. Scott Foxhall arrived with Pawlowski from College of Charleston in 2009 and remains as the chief recruiter. Justin Fredajas, who finished his Auburn career last season, is a student assistant.
Those coaches will try to help engineer a comeback from back-to-back disappointing seasons. The Tigers were 31-28 in 2012 and missed making an NCAA regional for the second consecutive season. Pawlowski says players are eager to start the climb back.
"I think the guys are looking forward to the challenge," Pawlowski said. "We have an experienced lineup. Return our top four hitters. The biggest thing is we have more depth on the pitching staff and more options. That is something we've really tried to address."
Sophomore left-hander Daniel Koger, 4-5 with a 3.19 ERA as a true freshman, is the top returning starter on the mound. Sophomore Trey Cochran-Gill was 5-2 with a 3.19 ERA, mostly in nonconference games. Sophomore Rocky McCord got little work last season, appearing in 10 games. But he was 4-0 with a 1.71 ERA in the summer.
Senior Dillon Ortman, a reliever for most of his career, will be a candidate for the starting rotation, along with a highly regarded class of newcomers.
On offense, preseason All-America centerfielder Ryan Tella (.360), outfielder Cullen Wacker (.350), first baseman Garrett Cooper (.324) and shortstop Dan Glevenyak (.319), all seniors, lead the way a returning starters. Catcher Blake Austin (.296) was a part-time starter last season.
"You are looking at guys like Tella, Wacker, Glevenyak, Cooper," Pawlowski said. "I feel good about those four guys. (Junior college transfer) Damek Tomscha has done a really good job at third base. He had nagging injuries in the fall. I feel like we have an experienced offense."
Auburn coach John Pawlowski is headed toward his fifth season.
It is crucial, Pawlowski says, for the veterans to take control of the team.
"That's one of the things we talked a lot about was the leaders," Pawlowski said. "Who is going to emerge? Who is going to show these guys this is how we do it?. We worked a lot on team chemistry. There have been some changes in-house that were needed. I'm pleased with the direction we are moving."
Likely starter: Blake Austin (5-11, 222, Jr.).
Contenders: Kody Ortman (6-4, 216, Sr.), J.D. Crowe (5-11, 202, RFr.).
Likely starter: Garrett Cooper (6-2, 229, Sr.).
Left-hander Daniel Koger leads the starting rotation
Contender: Patrick Savage (6-0, 217, Jr.)
Likely starter: Tanner Cimo (5-7, 168, So.) or Jordan Ebert
Likely starter: Damek Tomscha (6-2, 230, Jr.)
Contender: Dylan Smith (6-3, 218, Fr.).
Likely starter: Dan Glevenyak (6-1, 198, Jr.).
Garrett Cooper hit .324 last season
Contender: Mitchell Self ( 5-10, 154, Sr.)
Likely starters: Cullen Wacker (5-11, 230,Sr.), Ryan Tella (6-0, 174, Jr.), Sam Gilliken (6-2, 195, Fr.) or Rock Rucker (6-4, 229, Fr.).
Contenders: Bobby Andrews (5-11, 192, Jr.), Terrance Dedrick (5-10, 177, Jr.).
Likely starter: Patrick Savage (6-0, 217, Jr.) or Rock Rucker (6-4, 229, Fr.).
Possible starters: Daniel Koger (61, 185, So.), Rocky McCord (6-1, 169, So.) or Trey Cochran-Gill (5-11, 189, So.) or Trey Wingenter ( 6-7, 195, Fr.) or Dillon Ortman (6-2,195, Jr.) or Michael O'Neal (6-1, 224, Jr.) or Jay Wade (5-10, 206. Jr.).
Likely starter: Terrance Dedrick (5-10, 177, Jr.).
Contenders: Conner Kendrick (6-0, 195, Jr.), Dillon Ortman (6-2, 195, Jr.).
For the 2013 roster and 2012 statistics, follow the links below.