Tigers Face Tough Test Vs. Dores

Auburn takes on No. 4 Vanderbilt this weekend at Plainsman Park and it could mean more duties for talented sophomore Keegan Thompson.

Auburn, Ala.--Coming off a sweep at the hands of Texas A&M to open conference play, Coach Sunny Golloway and the Auburn Tigers have another difficult challenge this weekend in the first home SEC baseball series when No. 4 Vanderbilt comes to Plainsman Park for three games at Plainsman Park.

Winners of six consecutive games, including a sweep over Arkansas last weekend in Nashville, the defending national champions enter the weekend a confident team and also one of the most talented Auburn will see this season said Golloway.

“I think it’s going to be a tremendous challenge,” Golloway said. “I think our kids are excited. It will be their first road SEC challenge and I know our kids are really looking forward to it, especially because they are the defending national champs and because they are a good program. (Tim) Corbin has done a great job building that program. That’s what you sign up for when you come to either coach or play in the SEC.”

On the mound the Commodores will match Auburn’s starting trio of Keegan Thompson (3-2, 4.11 ERA), Trey Wingenter (1-1, 3.24) and Rocky McCord (1-1, 2.67) with three very good starters led by junior Carson Fulmer (3-0, 1.91) on Friday night. With junior Walker Buehler (1-0, 1.50) on Saturday and freshman Jordan Sheffield (3-0, 1.75) rounding things out on Sunday, the Tigers have their work cut out for them offensively.

“It’s their pitching first and foremost,” Golloway said of what stands out about the Commodores. “I think they have been that way for quite some time with all of the big names that have gone through there like Sonny Gray. I think the guys they have right now are no different. They are pretty much household college names and they’re going to come right at you.”

One of the players that may be in line to get some at-bats against the Commodores this weekend is Thompson. Even though he has been concentrating solely on his pitching, he got the start at first base against UAB on Tuesday night after getting the news on the bus ride to Birmingham and could get even more time in the field this weekend against the Commodores.

“I hit BP Sunday at Texas A&M and Tuesday in Birmingham,” Thompson said of his entrance back into the offense. “That’s the first time I hit BP in a month and a half.”

When asked if that was something that will continue, Thompson said he’s not sure what the future holds, but if that means being back at first it may take some getting used to for the talented two-way player from a year ago.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll just have to see how it goes. I haven’t taken a ground ball since May 10 of last year.”

While Thompson may still be unsure of his role as a first baseman, for Golloway it sure sounds like a done deal. Looking for someone to help bring a spark to the offense, the second-year coach said Thompson is a guy they want to see more of beginning this weekend.

“We’re going to use Keegan in the field,” Golloway said. “We’ve struggled a little bit to have a good right-handed bat off the bench, against left-handers especially, and so I asked him if he was up to it against UAB. He has just started getting into the swing of things, we let him swing it earlier in the week. He steps up and in Keegan fashion triples in his first at-bat.

“He just loves playing the game,” the coach added. “You can tell he missed it. He loved being back in the lineup so we will use him. Will we start him at first base? That’s still to be determined. I’m going to look at some things again today. Knowing they are starting three right-handers, it’s going to be a tough challenge for all of our right-handed hitters because they throw the hard breaking ball, but Keegan is as good as anybody at taking out of the zone and getting after pitches in the zone.”

Game times for the weekend series are scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, 7 p.m. on Saturday (ESPNU) and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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