Thompson was the story of the night for the Tigers as the sophomore allowed three runs on seven hits in seven and one/third innings while striking out a career-high 12 batters on 119 pitches. Dominant from the start before running out of gas late, Thompson gave Coach Sunny Golloway exactly what he was looking for out of his number one starter with Wingenter putting the game away late.
“I think we’re getting better,” Golloway said. “There were opportunities in the game for us tonight to teach and our guys are really being good about listening to my coaching staff and absorbing and learning the game. There are some things we can do better and some things we really did great, but the key to the night was really Keegan Thompson and boy the way that Trey Wingenter went out on the mound.”
Picking up his third win of the year and putting together his second quality start in a row after shutting down Georgia Tech one week ago, Thompson said the key once again for him was location.
“I felt good,” Thompson said. “I had fastball command again. My slider was working today and I actually threw a few change-ups, which I haven’t done very often. I was throwing them for strikes and I just kept them off balance.”
At the plate Daniel Robert led the way for the Tigers with three hits after missing much of the weekend series because of a stomach bug. Jordan Ebert and Kyler Deese each had two hits for Auburn on a night when the Tigers did just enough on offense to get the victory.
Auburn just about got all of the offense it would need in the third inning thanks to a pair of clutch two-out hits from the middle of the order. With two outs and Deese on second following a double off the right field wall, Alabama starting pitcher Jake Hubbard hit Damon Haecker with a pitch to keep the inning alive and bring Ebert to the plate.
Coming off an 0-5 day on Sunday, Ebert got things started for the Tigers with a single to score Deese and put Auburn ahead early. Continuing to cause himself problems, Hubbard walked Robert to load the bases for true freshman Hunter Tackett. Already showing some good signs at the plate early in the season, Tackett laced a single to score Haecker and Ebert to give Thompson a three-run lead to work with.
In the fourth Auburn had an opportunity to break the game open after loading the bases with no outs thanks to an error following by a pair of singles by Blake Logan and Deese. With the top of the order due up for the Tigers, Alabama went to the bullpen for hard-throwing reliever Ray Castillo.
Facing his old high school teammate at Russell County, Anfernee Grier, Castillo got a ground ball to the first baseman for out number one, but Cody Nulph scored to make it 4-0. That would be all for the Tigers however as Haecker struck out and a fly ball off the bat of Ebert brought the inning to a close.
Dominating Alabama with nine strikeouts in the first five innings, Thompson ran into his first trouble of the game in the sixth against the top of the Alabama order. Leading things off, Georgie Salem singled to bring Mikey White to the plate. Getting a pitch he could handle, White blasted one over the head of Ebert in right field for a triple. Salem easily scored on the play to put Alabama on the board.
Facing red hot Casey Hughston, Thompson got a ground ball for the first out of the inning to keep White stuck at third. That wouldn’t last long as Jake Overstreet lifted a fly ball deep enough to right field to score White and make it a 4-2 game.
Once again taking advantage of some help from the Alabama pitching staff, Auburn added to its lead in the top of the seventh inning. Getting singles from Ebert and Daniel Robert to start the inning, the Tigers sent Tackett to the plate to keep things going. It appeared he had done just that with a bloop into right field that fell in, but having to play it safe at first base Robert was forced out at second to put runners on the corners with one out. With pinch hitter Bo Decker at the plate the Tigers got some good fortune as Thomas Burrows uncorked a wild pitch to score Ebert and push the lead to 5-2.
That looked like it would be enough, but Thompson was still in the game in the eighth inning and well over 100 pitches when Alabama did some late damage. Leading things off, White tripled for the second time in the game and scored on a Hughston fly ball to cut the lead back to just two. A single by Overstreet and a double by J.C. Wilhite put the tying run on second, but Wingenter slammed the door in relief by getting two quick outs to keep the Tigers in front 5-3. He finished things off in the ninth to earn the save and give Auburn the victory.
Auburn returns to action this weekend with a three game series against Xavier at Plainsman Park. Game times for the weekend are 6 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.