Auburn, Ala.--It was close to a perfect opening day for Coach Butch Thompson and Auburn Tigers as Keegan Thompson earned his first win on the mound since April 11, 2015 and Daniel Robert added four hits in a 9-0 win over George Washington.
As a team the Tigers pounded out 11 hits with designated hitter Dylan Ingram and catcher Damon Haecker each adding a pair of RBI on the day, but the story was Keegan Thompson and the Auburn pitching staff.
Allowing just four hits in six innings and looking strong, the redshirt junior set the tone for the day and the rest of the bullpen picked him up. Andrew Mitchell, Corey Herndon and Elliot Anderson allowed just one hit the rest of the way on a day when Butch Thompson said his guys did their job.
“Our guys I thought all the way around handled the game so well,” the coach said. “I thought defense played solid, that’s huge for Keegan Thompson to get back on the mound and fairly efficient. It was a two and a half hour game and I thought he got us started off the right way.
“Daniel Robert, don’t pick at him or anything, but I think it took him a month to get four hits last year,” Butch Thompson added. “He just hit the ball to all parts of the field and look great at first base. When you pitch, play defense and I know we advanced on three dirt balls but that’s not a big thing for us to market but it’s big for us to take that 90 feet. We had seven additional balls where we took an additional 90 feet, we were thrown out at third base one time. All the way around good attack.”
For Keegan Thompson it was the culmination of almost two years of rehab work. Going through Tommy John surgery following the 2015 season, he redshirted last year and was forced to watch from the bench. Now getting through his first start and getting a win, the Cullman native said getting the day under his belt and performing well was a big step.
“It was nice,” he said. “I just tried to throw strikes. After that first inning I got the adrenaline calmed down a little bit. I just tried to go out there and throw. It was good.
“They put the ball in play,” Thompson added. “They didn’t really like to get down in the count. They try to put the ball in play early, which helped us out a lot. They kept the defense on our toes and they made good plays, helped me out a good bit.”
Helping out the Tigers in a big way on Friday was senior utility man Damon Haecker. Making his fourth-straight opening day start, Haecker was behind the plate for the first time since he was in the sixth grade. Calling the game and not allowing a stolen base or a passed ball, the senior did his job and more said Butch Thompson.
“Me and him work great,” Keegan Thompson said. “He knows the game well no matter what position he plays. He’s just a competitor. He called a great game. His first game catching he called a shutout. That tells a lot about him.”
Auburn got the offense going early against George Washington starter Elliot Raimo with shortstop Luke Jarvis ringing a double to get the season off on a good foot for the Tigers. Following a Jay Estes walk, third baseman Joshua Anthony singled up the middle to put Auburn on the board for the first time in 2017.
Estes was cut down trying to stretch it to third, but it wouldn’t keep the Tigers from adding a run as a Robert single put runners on first and second. Following a two-out walk, designated hitter Dylan Ingram made it 2-0 on an infield single with the bases loaded. Auburn just missed a huge inning when Bowen McGuffin’s smash to right field was run down to end the inning.
Daniel Robert had four hits for the Tigers
With Thompson cruising through the second and third innings, Auburn extended the lead in the bottom of the third.
Continuing his big day, Robert tripled to center field to give the Tigers some life and his teammates delivered. Following a walk to Bo Decker, center fielder Jonah Todd singled to right field to score Robert and put runners on the corners. Following Ingram’s second RBI of the game following a fly ball to right field, McGuffin made it 5-0 Auburn with a smoked double to right field.
That’s how things would remain until the bottom of the seventh. Following a scoreless inning of relief for Mitchell, the Tigers broke the game open with Anthony walking to start things and scoring on a Robert double. A walk to Decker and an error off the bat of Todd added the second run of the frame for the Tigers.
Leading 7-0, Haecker finished off the scoring in the inning with a two-run double to left-center. He was thrown out trying to stretch it to third, but the damage was done as Auburn had a commanding nine-run lead.
They would finish it off for a seventh-straight opening day win.
Auburn returns to action on Saturday with a scheduled doubleheader against George Washington beginning at 11 a.m. The Tigers are scheduled to start sophomore Casey Mize in game one with senior Gabe Klobosits on the hill for the second game.