Play Ball--Baseball Tigers Open Practice

Auburn opens practices on Friday for the 2015 baseball season.

Auburn, Ala.--Coming off a 28-28 record in his first season at Auburn, Coach Sunny Golloway said he’s anxious to see what year number two holds for the Tigers as they open practice Friday at Plainsman Park. Replacing key players with both the pitching staff and among position players, Auburn will have to count on new faces in 2015 as the Tigers look to get back to the postseason.

“The first thing and the most important thing is that last year going into the season there were a lot of unknowns,” Golloway said. “This year there is a lot more excitement. We feel like we got an awful lot accomplished during the fall and we didn’t have to worry about facilities or some of the other things that might have been more of a distraction last year. The focus has been on our student-athletes.

“That is what a year has done is really trying to implement the things that needed to be taken care of," the coach said. "Now it’s more on our student-athletes. I feel really good about it, I feel really excited about it. I feel really good about our coaching staff.

"We’ve got a lot of work to do and they (team) know that," Golloway added. "We still haven’t played our first game and still haven’t won a game. We entered the season optimistic, but we have to go into it, I think, with a little caution and a lot of humility.”

Offensively, the challenge for Auburn is going to be finding power in the absence of guys like Blake Austin, Damek Tomscha, Ryan Tella and Dan Glevenyak. While leading hitter Jordan Ebert returns with a move to right field as well as promising sophomores such as center fielder Anfernee Grier, first baseman Daniel Robert, infielder Damon Haecker and catcher Blake Logan, the Tigers will turn to a group of junior college transfers to provide offensive punch.

Jordan Ebert hit .353 last season

A former starter at Pepperdine as a freshman before earning California Juco MVP honors last year, Cody Nulph is expected to get the call at shortstop with Haecker and another juco transfer, Melvin Gray, both working at second base.

Power could come from another junior college player, Alex Polston, who is the frontrunner to win the starting spot at third base. Robert and junior college transfer Bo Decker are both expected to work at first base for Auburn. Decker started his career at UCF before playing his sophomore season at Seminole State in Florida.

On the mound sophomore Keegan Thompson is back after going 5-3 a year ago with an ERA of just 2.01. After that the returning wins are few and far between as returning pitchers Justin Camp, Cole Lipscomb, Jacob Milliman, Robby Clements, Trey Wingenter, Rocky McCord, and Kevin Davis combined to go just 3-6 a year ago.

With much of that group in the mix to be in the starting rotation for the Tigers this year, Camp has a new role and it could be a good fit for his aggressive mentality the mound. Pitching seven times in relief in 2014, Camp moved to the closer role during the fall and found his niche. Battling back from Tommy John surgery two years ago, he is now healthy and said it’s just a battle to get back because of what it does to you psychologically.

“It’s really frustrating and I think a lot of it is more mental than it’s physical because physically you’re fine,” Camp said. “It’s getting it through your head that you can really turn it loose without getting hurt again. I think that was the biggest step to get over. It’s been tough and it’s been frustrating but it’s worth it.”

Justin Camp had a strong fall for the Tigers

With new pitching Coach Tom Holliday stressing that everybody has a role to play in the success of the staff, Camp noted that he has seen a different attitude from the guys as they get ready for a new season.

“I feel like this year everybody is kind of finding their role,” Camp said. “It may be fitting into a different role that they haven’t done before, like a new guy who was a starter in high school finding a new role. I feel like everybody knows what their role is and is comfortable with it.

“We have got a group of starters that kind of you can pick from. We are going to have enough that whoever is throwing the best at a certain time is going to give us the best chance to win and everybody knowing their role and following through with that is the biggest difference.”

Auburn opens the season Feb. 13 at home against Binghamton.

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