Talented Freshman Ready To Get Season Started

Freshman pitcher/first baseman Keegan Thompson will be counted on to provide a big lift to the Auburn Tigers in 2014.

Port Charlotte, Fla.--When the Auburn Tigers take the field on Friday to open the 2014 baseball season against Indiana State there will be plenty of familiar faces on the diamond for first-year coach Sunny Golloway's team. While the veterans will get much of the attention, one of the true freshmen is a player Golloway hopes the college baseball world will be talking about for the next three years.

A talented two-way performer from Cullman, Keegan Thompson was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Alabama after standout campaigns both on the mound and at the plate for the Bearcats. Now ready to do his thing as a starting pitcher and first baseman for the Tigers, Thompson noted he can't wait to get his first season underway at Auburn.

"It's going to be fun," Thompson said. "It's also going to be a little difficult. I just have to work every day and do my best every time out.

"Facing the competition I have in the fall and in the preseason has helped me get my timing down. As long as I can hit these guys I feel like I can hit anything. Our pitching is going to be up there in the SEC."

Getting his first shot to make an impact at first base in the first two games of the season, Thompson will move to the mound on Sunday when the Tigers take on Connecticut in the final game of the Snowbird Classic. A team that went 35-28 last season and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, UConn will be a stiff challenge for the true freshman, but he enters on a roll following a solid performance in his final scrimmage last weekend.

Allowing just one run on two hits in five innings, Thompson showed good command and poise on the mound. For him it was a nice way to finish off the preseason as he prepares to tackle college baseball.

"It was a nice confidence booster," he said. "I struggled a little bit in the first inning, but I settled down after that. Ending the preseason well was a nice confidence booster for me going into this weekend."

Thompson's rise to the top at two different positions hasn't been a surprise to Golloway. Even though he didn't recruit the talented player to Auburn, the first-year coach got a detailed scouting report from assistant Scott Foxhall before fall practice. Once he got a chance to see him in action things just fell into place.

"It's just his poise," Golloway said of what stands out about Thompson. "He runs the bases really well. You know one guy had stolen a base against Blake Austin all fall and it was Keegan Thompson. It was on a hit-and-run and he got a really good jump. Blake barely elevated the ball and Keegan slid in. I was amazed at how well, he's not that fast he's just got great baseball instincts.

"The same thing at first base," Golloway added. "He knows where to be on bunts. He knows where to throw the ball. He knows where our defense is. He knows what to call. Then on the mound you see the same poise. He's mature beyond his years. That's something when you recruiting a young man you don't know. It's just a blessing when you get it."

With veterans at the plate such as Austin, Dan Glevenyak and Damek Tomscha to help him along the way and Michael O'Neal, Dillon Ortman, Terrance Dedrick and others to help him out on the mound, Thompson is hoping to deliver in a big way for the Tigers. If he can do that it would go a long way towards helping the Tigers reach Golloway's goal of making it to the College World Series.

Never backing down in his belief that this team has the talent to make it to Omaha, Golloway's confidence has breathed life into the program once again and Thompson said now it's time to back that up.

"It has been really fun because he knows what he's talking about," Thompson said of Golloway. "He knows all the details that need to be done and has a story for everything. It's kind of funny listening to all the stories he tells us. It makes it fun to hear some of them.

"It's great," he added of Golloway's belief in this team. "Just to have the confidence in us to believe we're going to Omaha, especially after have a couple of down years, it's just awesome. Him expecting us going to Omaha is pushing us even harder to get there."

Game times for Auburn's opening weekend of play are noon on Friday against Indiana State, 11 a.m. on Saturday against Ohio State and 10 a.m. on Sunday versus UConn. All times are central.

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