Freshmen Making An Early Impact For Tigers

Several freshman are making an early impact for Sunny Golloway and the Auburn Tigers as they prepare for Wednesday's home opener against Alabama State.

Auburn, Ala.--Through one weekend of the Sunny Golloway era with the Auburn Tigers, one thing has already been shown and that is he's not afraid to play freshmen early and often. With veterans returning at several key positions in the field and on the mound, the first-year Auburn coach turned to a big group of newcomers to help fill in the gaps for the Tigers as they went 2-1 with wins over Indiana State and Connecticut.

The biggest impact from the group came from pitcher/first baseman Keegan Thompson. Even though he had just one hit in 13 at-bats for the weekend with two runs scored, Thompson played a flawless first base to pick things up on the defensive end. However it was his performance on the mound that showed what he can bring to the table for the Tigers down the road.

Picking up a win in his first collegiate start, Thompson was dominant in stretches against the Huskies, allowing just two hits and one unearned run in five and two/thirds innings of work. Consistently hitting 90+ MPH on the radar gun with as high as 94, Thompson struck out nine hitters in the win while throwing nearly 100 pitches. It was a solid first outing for the Cullman native and Golloway said the only negative was his number of pitches that kept him from getting deeper in the game.

"It was really special. He had a lot more strikeouts than I would have liked to have seen because to strike out a lot of people your pitch count gets up. He wasn't going to get to three digits. I told Fox (Scott Foxhall) ‘no way'. We shut him down at 99."

Keegan Thompson

Thompson is far from the only freshman already making big contributions for the Tigers as outfielders Anfernee Grier and J.J. Shaffer as well as infielders Damon Haecker and Daniel Robert all earned starts on the first weekend. Grier and Haecker came out of the weekend as Auburn's leading hitters, each going 3-10 with a stolen base. Getting an opportunity to get their feet wet against college competition, Haecker said it was fun to get the season started with a pair of wins.

"It was good," Haecker said. "We came together as a team over the weekend. That's kind of why we went down there, to bond. The big thing as freshmen is just getting those pre-game jitters out in terms of playing collegiate baseball in general. Overall I think our freshmen did the job. We're starting to learn. Each game we'll learn different things that we are going to need later in the year."

Preparing to face Alabama State on Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Plainsman Park in the home opener before hosting Arkansas Pine-Bluff, California and East Tennessee State this weekend in a tournament, Haecker said he's excited to add to the momentum from last weekend and correct the mistakes heading into week two.

"It's real big," Haecker said. "We have our home opener Wednesday and I know the momentum is going to carry over. We just have to build as a team with fundamentals and everything Coach Golloway talks about. We've got to build as a team and hopefully by the end of it we'll be at the top where we need to be."


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