2022 Globe Life Field College Baseball Showdown

Auburn Preview: Tigers Look To Rebound In Tough SEC

Auburn Preview: Tigers Look To Rebound In Tough SEC

Auburn looks to rebound from an off year, and the gauntlet of the SEC conference schedule offers every opportunity to prove they belong.

Feb 3, 2022 by Briar Napier
Auburn Preview: Tigers Look To Rebound In Tough SEC

It wasn’t long ago that Auburn could stake a claim as one of the kings of the mighty SEC. 

The Tigers had the hardware to prove it, too. In a magical run to the College World Series in 2019, Auburn—despite entering the NCAA Tournament at just 33-25—swept the Atlanta Regional and then-No. 3 Georgia Tech before knocking out North Carolina on the road in the Chapel Hill Super Regional, getting back to Omaha for the first time since 1997. 

The team had a promising 13-5 start to the season before league play in 2020 was shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it seemed to rock the Tigers a little bit. Auburn finished under .500 (25-27) in 2021 for only the third time since 2006 and was unceremoniously dumped out of the SEC Tournament on the first day to then-No. 11 Ole Miss. 

But there’s no such thing as a “gimme game” in the SEC, and it certainly isn’t whenever Auburn is on the schedule. As the Tigers look to recapture some past glory, it may win them some games in the end. 

Here’s what to watch out for from the Tigers in 2022 as their season gets under way this month. 


The Tigers were in the top tier of the SEC in hitting this past season, finishing third in the league in team average (.281), a league-best .487 in slugging percentage, and fifth in home runs (86). However, much of that came off the bat of shortstop Ryan Bliss, a NCBWA First Team All-American that had a team high .365 average and was drafted No. 42 overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the MLB Draft. Replacing a talent the caliber of Bliss—who joined Gregg Olson, Casey Mize and Tanner Burns as the only two-time All-Americans in program history—is much easier said than done, but the Tigers will certainly try. The blow softened when Auburn got the commitment of Louisiana shortstop recruit Seaver Sheets, who won two consecutive state championships at the high school level while being ranked the No. 7 overall player in the state, as he’ll look to fill the void. Elsewhere, senior Kason Howell is a three-year starter in center field and one of the cornerstones of the Auburn lineup as he returns a .260 average with eight home runs and 30 RBI, while redshirt junior JUCO transfer Blake Rambusch could be a new threat near the top of the order after posting a .444 average with 33 stolen bases at Grayson College in Texas last season. 


Play on the mound wasn’t Auburn’s strong suit last season. In fact, it was far from it. The Tigers ranked second-to-last in the SEC in 2021 with a 5.24 ERA, also finishing near the bottom of the order in strikeouts (455, 13th of 14) and saves (8, 13th) as problems plagued Auburn throughout its rotation. Naturally, coach Butch Thompson pursued the pitcher position hard in recruiting, as seven different freshman players on the roster can deal on the mound, per the Tigers’ roster. As for returners, left-handed pitcher Trace Bright led the Tigers last season with four wins in 11 starts, but his 6.98 ERA on top of it means that his status as Auburn’s top dog could be up in the air as Thompson sorts out his hurlers. Right-handed junior Mason Barnett was a top-200 player in the 2019 recruiting class by Perfect Game, but still has room to improve after a 5.40 ERA in 16 appearances last season. There’s some noticeable distance between the elites of the SEC and Auburn, but if the pitching staff gets out on the right foot to start 2022, that gap could shrink. 


What was one of the things the SEC’s three representatives in the College World Series last season—Tennessee, Vanderbilt and eventual champion Mississippi State—had in common? They flat out got business done in conference play. The trio made up three of the four SEC teams that finished with a winning percentage over .650 against league foes (Arkansas was the other) as they handled the onslaught of likely the country’s toughest college baseball conference with precision and consistency, features that undoubtedly helped in getting to Omaha. Auburn, meanwhile, finished 10-20 in SEC play—Thompson’s worst mark since going 8-22 during his first season in 2016—and didn’t win a weekend series until May 1, when it got its second win over Georgia. Nonetheless, the tide could turn quickly for Auburn—Thompson helped take the Tigers to the CWS just three years ago, while he also has a reputation as a pitching guru that’s sent 18 former hurlers to major-league debuts. But there’s no preparation for the gauntlet of the postseason better than the SEC, and getting the job done could go a long way.