AUBURN, Ala. (EETV) -- The Tigers opened the 2023 season with a home series win, taking the first two games 8-4 and 6-1, before dropping Sunday’s matinee 11-2 versus the Indiana Hoosiers.
One freshman who took advantage of his playing time was Ike Irish. Irish was Auburn’s designated hitter in all three games and batted third. Through his first 12 collegiate at-bats, Irish has a .500 AVG and a 1.321 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).
Not only were the results coming at the plate for Irish, but it looked like he was seeing the ball incredibly well. In his final at-bat in Sunday’s loss, Irish was shaking his head yes and no after every pitch, taking good, healthy hacks at pitches he could handle. In that at-bat, he struck out at a pitch that looked well outside the zone, but Irish was adamant about the pitch being a ball.
To win a baseball game, you need to score runs, and Irish was productive in that space too. He accounted for six of Auburn’s runs in the opening series, scoring three and adding three RBIs.
What stood out to me most about Irish’s debut series was his willingness to be a leader for a struggling team on Sunday. In the fourth inning, Irish singled up the middle, giving the Tigers a much-needed baserunner. As he rounded first, he pointed at the dugout, trying to give the team the energy they desperately needed. Irish eventually came around to score one of the Tigers' two runs on the afternoon.
The freshman storyline continued Sunday when the Tigers went down early following a grand slam in the first inning by Indiana outfielder, Carter Mathison. Another freshman.
Auburn head coach, Butch Thompson, decided to give a few freshman pitchers a chance to showcase themselves considering the large deficit. While many did not take advantage of the stage, lefty, Zach Crotchfelt put Auburn fans on notice.
Crotchfelt came on in relief as the fourth pitcher for the Tigers. He went 3.2 IP, allowing three hits and two earned runs. The impressive part of his appearance was his pitching repertoire, showcasing a fastball that sat around 92-93mph and hit nearly 96-97 mph when needed late in at-bats.
The freshman pitcher was able to rack up four strikeouts and left the game to one of the only well-deserved ovations on the day. That adds up to 11.25 K/9, which should earn Crotchfelt at least another appearance as he looks to continue impressing the coaching staff.
The Tigers take on the North Alabama Lions on Tuesday in Huntsville, before heading west to California for a weekend three-game series with the USC Trojans.