Young Players Making Impression On Golloway

Auburn coach Sunny Golloway talks about fall baseball practice for the Tigers and the newcomers that have caught his eye.

Auburn, Ala.--Taking over a team loaded with seniors in college baseball is usually not a good thing, but for Sunny Golloway it has meant hitting the ground running in his first fall with the Auburn Tigers.

Having catcher Blake Austin, first baseman Patrick Savage, shortstop Dan Glevenyak, third baseman Damek Tomscha, and pitchers such as Terrance Dedrick, Michael O'Neal and Dillon Ortman, Golloway has found a team that is hungry to win and learn a new way this fall.

Working on little things such as making a correct and accurate throw, cleaning up fielding mechanics, infield defense and much more, Golloway said the first two weeks of team practices have been very good for his team.

"They're mentally tough," Golloway said. "They're not afraid to learn. They have been like sponges. When they make mistakes they bounce right back.

"I think the other thing is that we're trying to teach them some of the correct habits of how we come out and play catch every day and shuffle our feet in the drills," he said. "You don't have to keep reminding them. They go right back to it. They've done a really good job of buying in.

"I don't think it's any different than the things I heard coach Gus (Malzahn) talking about in football. He's proud of the way the guys have bought in. With change you have to be able to buy in. It's hard on some guys.

"(Dan) Glevenyak has been here and now we're asking him to do things a little bit different to win the job that he's had for two years, but he's competing and has bought in," the coach pointed out. "He hasn't won the job yet, but he's getting closer everyday."

Glevenyak and the rest of the veterans are being challenged by a large and talented freshman class that should make its impact felt early in the 2014 season. Leading the way is big Keegan Thompson from Cullman. Playing first base this fall and seeing time as the designated hitter, Thompson is also likely to see time on the mound as well said Golloway.

"Keegan is going to have to swing it for us," Golloway noted. "He's going to have to play some first or DH and he's definitely going to have to be on the mound on the weekend. He's just too talented."

Thompson is just one of many newcomers who could see playing time this season for the Tigers. Speedy Anfernee Grier from Russell County, catcher Blake Logan from Muscle Shoals and infielders Brett Binning, Damon Haecker, Connor Short and Daniel Robert have all shown glimpses of good things in fall practice. In addition Golloway said that a speedster from Auburn High has also caught his eye.

"J.J. Shaffer has really stood out," Golloway said of the 5-9 outfielder. "He can push bunt and drag. He's really stood out in the outfield. He can fly.

"Anfernee Grier, moving him from the infield to the outfield and taking the pressure off him defensively, he's really become electric for us offensively. He's stealing bases and hitting.

"I think Blake Logan behind the plate has made Blake Austin better," the coach noted. "I want to be able to catch him on an SEC weekend to spell Austin. I don't want him to just be a midweek guy and let B.A. have the whole week off and then wear him down on the weekend. To have fresh legs behind the plate you've got to have a guy that can step in the SEC and catch.

Anfernee Grier

"Logan has to keep coming for us, there is no doubt about that. In the infield (Brett) Binning, Connor (Short), Daniel Robert hit one out of here and I thought it was going to break a window. He's showing great things, but we've got to find out where he fits, either first or third. They are talented. We'll let them fill in around our older guys that we think are established."

With the younger players stepping up on the infield it has allowed the Tigers to experiment with a few players. The biggest one is sophomore Jordan Ebert. Auburn's everyday second baseman last season, Ebert played some outfield over the summer and is getting a look in left field this fall. Golloway said if one of the freshmen can step up at second base it would allow them to play Ebert in left and give the Tigers even more defense on the field.

The Tigers played three scrimmage games this week and are expected to follow a similar pattern next week with the games open to the public at Plainsman Park.

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