Justin Camp (above) is one of the seniors who will be honored this weekend at Plainsman Park.
Auburn, Ala.--Auburn’s last home series of the 2016 baseball season takes place this weekend when the Tigers (22-27, 8-16) face off against No. 3 Mississippi State (34-14-1, 15-9) at Plainsman Park. For seniors Jackson Burgreen, Justin Camp, Jordan Ebert, Melvin Gray and Cody Nulph it will be their last time to play in front of the home crowd at Auburn.
This weekend is about more than just memories for the group, however, as the Tigers need wins to stay alive in the race for a spot in the SEC Tournament at Hoover. Currently tied for 10th in the league standings with Georgia and just ahead of Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee, Auburn is in a must-win situation the next two weekends against the Bulldogs and at Vanderbilt.
First things are first, however, and that means facing off against a Mississippi State team that Coach Butch Thompson is knows in great detail. Recruiting most of the guys his team willl be facing against this weekend, Thompson said for the Tigers it’s all about winning games.
“I think once the first pitch is thrown and once the game starts, I think Auburn is trying to beat Mississippi State in a series,” Thompson said. “We need it, I still think they have a ton to play for. They're having a great season and every one of these games are important.
“I would like for us to be more aggressive and get back to what we need to do to have success," the coach said. "We need to be on top of our game in the SEC. I think we've proven that this year. As a coach, you've got 24 or 48 hours to see if you can get a team back engaged to go compete for their last home SEC series of the season.”
Redshirt junior Cole Lipscomb (2-3, 5.02 ERA) gets the ball for Auburn in the series opener against Mississippi State and he will have the task of taking on talented junior Dakota Hudson (7-3, 2.80) on Friday night. Camp will take his final home trip to the mound for the Tigers on Saturday when he will pitch against junior Austin Sexton (5-2, 3.66).
Auburn's Butch Thompson was associate head coach last season at Mississippi State.
A rarity in college baseball as a redshirt senior, Camp has been through a whole lot of ups and downs in his career with the Tigers and enters his final home start 3-3 with a 3.58 ERA. Knowing the importance of the game for his team, he noted that this is going to be a special moment for him and a strong group of seniors.
“It’s going to feel weird and I don’t think it’s really going to set in until it’s all over,” Camp said. “I have been here for five years and this is where I’ve played for five years. Knowing that’s about to be over is a weird feeling.”
Earning a spot in an NCAA Regional last year and playing in the SEC Tournament for the first time, the goal for this group now is to get back to Hoover and give themselves a shot to keep playing. That is going to take some wins, something Camp said would make for a great way to finish off his career at Plainsman Park.
“I think it would be huge just because we’ve gone through so much,” Camp pointed out. “I’m really the only one still here from my class and I’ve seen everything. I have seen three head coaches, four hitting coaches, three pitching coaches, I have seen it all. To go through all that and be able to finish strong would be huge for me.
“Especially with the struggle we’ve had this year, to be able to go out on a high note, I know for me as a senior would be huge,” he added. “I know the other guys see it that way and they’re wanting to play for us because it’s our last go-around.”
Thompson wants to see his seniors go out in style as well. A group of players who opened their arms to him and a new staff after fall practice when so much turmoil surrounded the program, Thompson said this senior class is a special one and will forever be part of the program.
“I can't think of something better than to send somebody out,” Thompson said. “The rest of their lives they'll come back as an Auburn alum and always be welcome and part of this deal. This is their chance to have one more feat of action, where they actually get to go out and play on this field. We'll have a nice Senior Day that everybody has prepared for these guys and try to send them off the best we can.
“We want to create a memory for them that their last series they played here was against a top five team. Not looking back but looking forward to this being a great weekend. I think me and our staff and hopefully the younger players that are not graduating this year will do everything in our power to try to send them out the right way.”
Game times for the series are scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT on Friday, 3:30 p.m. on Saturday (SEC Network) and 1 p.m. on Sunday.