Destination Omaha Theme For Baseball Tigers

New Auburn baseball coach Sunny Golloway discusses his team heading into the 2014 season.

Auburn, Ala.--If there is anyone who can challenge Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning for the number of times he mentions the word Omaha then Auburn baseball coach Sunny Golloway is that guy.

Focused on getting the Tigers back to the College World Series for the first time since 1997, Golloway hasn't been shy about letting his expectations be known for a program that has made just one NCAA Tournament appearance in the least eight years. With Omaha featured prominently throughout Plainsman Park on the first day of full squad preseason practice on Sunday, the goal is obvious for the 2014 Tigers and Golloway said there is no reason why this team can't get there.

"We've got some really, really talented freshmen, but we've got some outstanding seniors," Golloway said. "There are some guys that just shouldn't be here. They shouldn't be at Auburn University right now and they are seniors here. The reason is that they clearly should have been drafted. There is no doubt in my mind after watching them. The level they are playing at right now, they're going to get drafted.

"It was a true blessing that maybe they stumbled along the way," he added. "We are where we are, but we're there for a reason. When you think about the talent we have as seniors, we've got some guys that have been good seniors that signed but they're not worried about that. They are worried about getting to Omaha. Our guys understand that and it's something we talked about early in the year. They believe it. I'll be surprised if this team doesn't end up in Omaha this year."

Back to play another season with the Tigers, seniors such as Blake Austin, Dan Glevenyak, Ryan Tella and Damek Tomscha should once again be fixtures in the field while fellow senior Michael O'Neal is expected to be the Saturday starter for Tigers. Throw in fellow senior Terrance Dedrick as the closer and you have a veteran nucleus returning from a team that finished 33-23 last season and 13-17 in SEC play.

Golloway believes Dan Gleveyak is headed for a big senior season

Also back is sophomore Jordan Ebert. The leading returning hitter for the Tigers after batting .303 as a true freshman, Ebert is expected to be in left field when Auburn opens the season at the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla. Taking his spot at second base will be true freshman Damon Haecker.

At first base there are three good options in senior Patrick Savage and true freshmen Keegan Thompson and Daniel Robert. In addition to spending time at first Thompson is also expected to be a starting pitcher for the Tigers and could be the opening day starter.

Another true freshman expected to play a key role this season is the speedy Anfernee Grier from Russell County High. Grier's ability to run and put the ball in play could make him the ideal leadoff guy in Golloway's fundamental style of offense.

Keegan Thompson

Two more possibilities to join O'Neal and Thompson in the rotation are redshirt sophomore Justin Camp and true freshman Kevin Davis. Coming on strong last season after sitting out the 2012 campaign because of arm surgery, Camp had a very strong fall for the Tigers. Shut down in the fall because of tendonitis, Davis could see his role increase throughout the season if he comes back healthy and ready to go.

Putting a strict emphasis on the fundamentals from the first day last fall, Golloway said his team has worked hard to put itself in a good position to start the season but that's just the first step. The next step is believing in each other and making sure you buy in every day to what the program wants to accomplish. That is winning.

"We're going to win," Golloway said. "We're driven to win and our players feel it. We feel it. We have internal pressure to get it done and we're going to get it done.

"Here's really what it comes down to, them believing in one another. It comes down to them being a band of brothers and believing in their coaching staff and not questioning why we're doing this or why this guy is in the lineup, it comes down to them executing every day."

If this team can execute and make the routine plays it will have a great chance to improve on last year's record and get back to the postseason. That's just the beginning for a team that has plenty to prove after being picked last in the SEC West by Perfect Game for 2014. Just a few plays away from earning a spot in a regional last year, Golloway said there are no excuses now and it's time to get it done.

"We've got a bunch of seniors and we've got one shot," Golloway said. "These coaches and sophomores and juniors and freshmen, we've got one shot to help these seniors get to Omaha. That's what we're agreeing to do. They need to go out on top and they need to go out having been in Omaha and competing for a championship.

"One thing I do know about Omaha, if you don't believe it then it's not going to happen," Golloway said. "You might believe and it might not happen if you don't put the work in and that's where the coaches are going to step in to make sure we put the work in and the right work every day."

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