MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Auburn coach Sunny Golloway said he told his team it had a chance to do something special against Alabama in the Capital City Classic.
Keegan Thompson got the message loud and clear.
The Auburn starting pitcher struck out 12 to help the Tigers win5-3 Tuesday night in front of 6,219 fans in the game that doesn't count in the SEC standings, but does count in your neighborhood and around the water cooler. Thompson was named the game's MVP.
"In games like this...in a pro park against your archrival... it's an opportunity," Golloway said. "It's something you can tell your grandkids about. Clearly, Keegan did something he will be able to tell his grandkids about some day. It was a gutty performance."
Thompson struck out nine through the first five innings as Auburn built a 4-0 lead. Alabama knocked Thompson out in the bottom of the eighth, but Trey Wingenter, a starter by trade, came in and picked up his first career save.
Auburn ran its record to 6-1 against Alabama in this annual game. The Tigers are 10-3 overall this season. Alabama is 7-5.
"We tip our cap, knowing we were in a very competitive game," Golloway said. "Their lineup at the top is really, really talented, so I think it even speaks louder and more volume for what Keegan did."
Thompson, now 3-1, will assume his role as a weekend starter in the Southeastern Conference soon enough. Golloway said midweek wins over Georgia Tech and Alabama over an eight-day span will only help.
Auburn plays Xavier at home this weekend, then Samford on March 10 before opening SEC play at Texas A&M on March 13.
"We'll hold him until we get in the SEC. He'll rest now," Golloway said. "What he was able to do early on was really be challenged. He's really been challenged by some really good hitters. It will be bode well for him.
"He's thrown pretty important pitches in pretty important moments, and has had success."
Auburn scored three in the third inning on an RBI single from Jordon Ebert and a two-run single. Anfernee Grier's RBI ground out made it 4-0 in the fourth. Alabama scored two in the sixth. The Tigers scored a run in the seventh on a wild pitch.
Alabama scored one in the eight before Wingenter came through.
"Pretty special," said Golloway. "We really saw him grow in the potential that we see with him."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine