Auburn, Ala.--It's not just the start that is different this season for the Auburn baseball Tigers but it's how it is being accomplished. Winners of seven of its first eight games, Auburn defeated the Troy Trojans 11-3 Tuesday at Plainsman Park behind a strong offense and an equally strong pitching performance.
At the heart of both performances were freshmen. On the mound Taylor Thompson earned his first win of the season and pitched well for the second time out this season. At the plate fellow freshmen Robert Brooks and Ross Smith both had two-hit days for the Tigers. While several freshmen have already come up big this season for the Tigers, none has done as much to help Coach Tommy Slater's club than the athletic Brooks.
Known just as much for being a quarterback at Enterprise High as his play on the baseball diamond, Brooks entered Auburn last fall with very little fanfare from recruiting services and MLB Draft experts but that wasn't the case with Auburn's coaching staff. After watching Brooks play in his high school season they knew the reason he wasn't being talked about is because no one had seen him at showcase camps or on the summer circuit.
Tuesday night he continued his torrid start to the 2007 season with yet another two-hit game for the Tigers in the victory. With Thompson pitching well on the mound and Auburn playing solid defense, Brooks says it was up to the offense to perform well after a disappointing last week of play and they did just that.
"Last week we had a lot of fly outs," Brooks says. "Our focus and our energy wasn't there last week. All through practice last week and early this week we talked as a team and decided to better ourselves each day at practice and have high energy at practice and let it carry over into games. Obviously we fed off the crowd and had great pitching. It's easy to go out there and play hard when you are behind Taylor Thompson or an arm like that."
Brooks connects with the pitch.
Through eight games, Brooks is second on the team with a batting average of .394 and has several spectacular defensive plays to his credit as well. Only once this season has the second baseman failed to hit safely in a game. Tied for the team lead in doubles with five and third in RBI with eight, Brooks has been very good in his first two week of play as a collegian. How good? Consider this number.
In eight games so far this season Brooks has five in which he's had at least two hits. To put that into perspective, last season Mike Bianucci earned Freshman All-American honors when he hit .359 with 31 RBI. For a complete season Bianucci had 19 multiple-hit games. Brooks is already a third of the way to that total in just eight games. He says that he owes his hot start to a lot of hard work in the batting cages working with Auburn's coaching staff.
"It's just hard work paying off," Brooks says. "I come in every day and take swings with Nonemaker (Coach Karl Nonemaker) and go to the plate with the right approach. I try to stay focused and have a positive attitude about it. Sometimes you just luck up and get a few hits."