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October 31, 2014

Joe Medley: Talking baseball, no progress for AU, UA

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Posted: Saturday, May 24, 2014 8:14 pm | Updated: 8:28 pm, Sat May 24, 2014.

It’s another weekend at the SEC baseball tournament and, sadly, another year for Alabama and Auburn fans not to care.

Auburn didn’t qualify and was not seen at Regions Park in Hoover this week. The Tigers and Missouri were the two teams to stay home.

Alabama came into the tournament ranked No. 25 but was seen only briefly. The eighth-seeded Tide lost 7-1 to No. 9 seed and unranked Kentucky in Tuesday’s single-elimination play-in round.

Baseball season was supposed to be better than this for the state’s two SEC powers?

Auburn fired coach John Pawlowski a year ago and spent big to hire Sunny Golloway from Oklahoma, where he built quite a record. What did Auburn get for making him the SEC’s second-highest-paid coach? An even shorter season by one game.

At least Pawlowski got Auburn in the SEC tournament a year ago.

Golloway made waves by dismissing popular players such as Alexandria product Hunter Kelley early in the season, made promises about going to Omaha, then made a thud of a first season at Auburn. The Tigers finished 28-28, 10-20 SEC … worse than their 33-23, 13-17 finish of a year ago.

Pawlowski, Tommy Slater or Steve Renfroe — the coaches Auburn fired between the legendary Hal Baird and Golloway — could have done as well. They could have done it for much less than Golloway’s $650,000 salary.

Golloway inherited a team that hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since the NCAA switched to the powered-down BBCOR bats in 2011. Things don’t turn around instantly, and his early season dismissals didn’t appear to help.

But the small-ball “Gollo-way” was sold as a solution. Nothing happened in his first Auburn season to sell it as the way to Omaha — this year or any time soon.

As for Alabama, there’s still baseball to be played. Projections have the Crimson Tide (34-22) making the NCAA tournament.

Collegesportsmadness.com has the Tide headed to the Lafayette (La.) Regional with Louisiana-Lafayette, Dallas Baptist and Jackson State. Chasingomaha.com replaces Dallas Baptist and Jackson State with Georgia Tech and Wright State.

The NCAA’s official RPI has Alabama at No. 26, but the Tide appears to be fizzling. It’s lost 11 of its last 17 games, and it’s reasonable to think its next NCAA regional will be as disappointing as its last.

Who remembers a year ago, when Alabama went to the Tallahassee Regional but lost twice to Troy and didn’t make the final round? Alabama finished 35-28.

That team had a lot of young stars like then-freshmen Mikey White and Kyle Overstreet and then-sophomore Ben Moore, but a year’s experience hasn’t produced much different results. Last year’s Alabama team at least played four games in Hoover.

Combined, Alabama and Auburn played exactly one game in Hoover this year. It’s been an SEC tourney with no reason for Alabama or Auburn fans to watch since Tuesday.

Barring a surprising Alabama surge in the NCAA tourney, a season that came with reason to believe in progress will end a disappointment for the state’s two SEC programs.

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