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Weekend preview: Schedule adjustments, pitchers sidelined

 Barry Allen   in Baseball

Previewing the third weekend of college baseball action around the SEC

Photo: Auburn's Cody Greenhill (credit: Auburn athletics)

Auburn, Mississippi State make schedule adjustments

Auburn and Mississippi State had to creative with its schedule this week.

Auburn was scheduled to host Xavier in a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Mississippi State was set to host Tennessee Tech at Dudy Noble Field.

Neither series will be played.

Both Xavier and Tennessee Tech announced this week that they were pausing all baseball activities due to Covid-19 related issues.

So, Auburn head coach Butch Thompson and MSU head coach Chris Lemonis worked the phones to find replacements.

Mission accomplished.

“College baseball is a close-knit, small community," Thompson told reporters earlier this week. “You start putting out some feelers and before long you kind of figure out what other series may be in jeopardy. It’s just coaches trying to help coaches basically. I think our fans are excited. Back-to-back weekends you feel like the nation’s watching Auburn baseball with an opportunity.”

Boston College has replaced Xavier on the Tigers schedule. The Eagles were scheduled to play an ACC series at Wake Forest, but that series was canceled due to Covid-19 issues within the Demon Deacons program. 

Kent State will take Tennessee’s Tech spot on the MSU schedule. Kent State was set to play a three-game series at West Virginia, but the Mountaineers paused all baseball related activities this week due to Covid-19.

Prielipp, Greenhill sidelined

Both Alabama and Auburn will be without the aces on the mound this weekend.

 Alabama All-American Connor Prielipp will miss his second consecutive start due to a “medical condition”. He was sidelined last week against Wright State. Prielipp threw five scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in his season debut against McNeese State on Feb. 19.

Junior right-hander Tyler Ras will once again open the series on the mound as the Crimson Tide travels to the College of Charleston. Ras allowed one run and two hits in six innings last week against Wright State. He struck out five.

Auburn will be without senior right-hander Cody Greenhill against Boston College. Greenhill has a foot injury and it sitting the weekend out. Greenhill is 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in two starts this season. He has allowed one earned run and seven hits in 11 innings with 10 strikeouts.

 Auburn will go with junior Richard Fitts in the opener, moving up from his No. 2 spot in the rotation. Fitts struggled last week against Baylor. He allowed seven runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings in the loss to the Bears.

Sophomore Mason Barnett and sophomore Trace Bright will pitch game two and three. Bright was tabbed the SEC Freshman of the Week after his performances against Alabama AM and Texas A&M. He fanned a career-high seven batters in four innings against the Bulldogs. He then added six scoreless innings in the win over the Aggies.

The weekend ahead

The penultimate weekend of non-conference play doesn’t offer a lot of marquee matchups, similar to the weekend before Thanksgiving in football.

Missouri (3-6) is playing four games at the Frisco College Baseball Classic against Dallas Baptist, Oklahoma and Arizona. The Tigers dropped a 3-2 decision to Dallas Baptist on Thursday night as the Patriots scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth for the win. Senior Lukas Veinbergs tossed five scoreless innings and struck out a career-high seven batters for Mizzou. The Tigers will play Dallas Baptist again tonight and will face Oklahoma on Saturday and Arizona on Sunday.

Texas A&M (6-4) leads the SEC with 131 strikeouts in 91 innings this season. The Aggies will be tested this weekend by New Mexico State in college station. 

In the Covid-shortened 2020 season, NMSU ranked in the Top 6 nationally in batting average (.320), walks (105) and slugging percentage (.511). Two years ago, NMSU led the NCAA with a .356 batting average and 11.6 runs per game. Twice in 2019, they scored more than 35 runs in a game. 

The Aggies might not see those kind of numbers this weekend. New Mexico State (1-4) is hitting only .254 through four games and averaging 8.3 runs per game.

Weekend schedule

Alabama at College of Charleston

Murray State at Arkansas

Boston College at Auburn

Florida A&M at Florida 

North Florida at Georgia 

Ball State at Kentucky 

Oral Roberts at LSU

Kent State at Mississippi State

Missouri at Frisco College Classic (Dallas Baptist, Oklahoma and Arizona)

Belmont at Ole Miss 

Mercer at South Carolina

Georgia State at Tennessee 

New Mexico State at Texas A&M 

Illinois-Chicago at Vanderbilt