Auburn, Ala.—Despite hitting .296 as a sophomore with three home runs, 21 RBI, and playing very good defense behind the plate, Auburn’s Blake Austin knew he needed to step up his game and his conditioning if he wanted to take his game to another level. With that in mind he put in hard work beginning last summer to be in tip top shape for the 2013 season.
Now 25 pounds lighter and more prepared to be the everyday catcher for Coach John Pawlowski’s club, Austin says that he feels better than ever and he believes it will make a big difference for him this year.
“The good news is that when I trimmed down I didn’t lose any of my strength,” Austin says. “I’m about as strong as I was last year, but catching every day I feel 100 times better. To be able to run and catch and throw, I don’t feel nearly as sore as I did last year.
“It doesn’t take a toll on my body like it did last year. I knew I needed to drop some weight because at the end of the year I was falling off. In the summer it kicked in and I did a lot of treadmill work and a lot of running. It was good.”
Blake Austin last season
One of the keys to Auburn’s offensive attack this season, Austin is far from alone as first baseman Garrett Cooper, shortstop Dan Glevenyak, left fielder Cullen Wacker and center fielder Ryan Tella all return from a team that led the SEC in hitting in 2012.
Depending on newcomers such as third baseman Damek Tomscha, infielder Jordan Ebert and outfielders Sam Gilliken, Rock Rucker and Terrance Dedrick to help carry the load offensively, Austin believes this team has the makings of something special.
“Offensively we shouldn’t have a problem,” Austin says. “We’ve got plenty of veteran guys to lead the young guys into the season. I hope our older guys can take a handle on the younger guys and we’ll be very good offensively.”
Perhaps nobody on the Auburn roster has a better idea of the pitching staff this season than Austin. As a catcher he gets to see everyone up close and personal as the Tigers prepare for the new year. With sophomores Daniel Koger, Rocky McCord and Trey Cochran-Gill all in the mix for starting roles and newcomers such as Michael O'Neal, Trey Wingenter, and Conner Kendrick all expected to play big roles on the staff along with Dedrick, Austin says the group is deeper and stronger than any he’s seen at Auburn.
“The pitching staff is deep,” Austin says. “There are a lot of options and power arms that I haven’t seen since playing summer ball in high school. There are a lot of guys throwing over 90 with good off-speed stuff. I’m proud of where we are right now, but there is a long way to go.
“The junior college guys step right in and they are old guys in my opinion,” Austin says. “They have been around the block. They know exactly what they need to do in order to get guys out. Those guys are all good weapons for us out of the pen or even starting.”
Hoping to take the program to another level after last season’s 31-28 record, Austin says that when opening week comes around it’s always an exciting time. As the Tigers prepare to face Maine this weekend at Plainsman Park in a four-game series Austin notes this team is ready to get it started.
“It’s hard to explain really,” Austin says. “You get butterflies because you know what it means to put in all that hard work in the fall and the summer and you’re getting ready to play somebody else besides your teammates. It’s like Christmas in February.”
Game times for the weekend series against Maine are 3 p.m. on Friday, a doubleheader beginning at noon on Saturday, and 11 a.m. on Sunday.
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