March 8, 2014
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - For the second consecutive Saturday, freshman Auburn right-hander Keegan Thompson was in full control of Hitchcock Field at Plainsman Park.
Thompson, who pitched Auburn's first complete-game, one-hit shutout in 12 years a week earlier, gave up two hits in seven shutout innings Saturday as the Tigers beat Mercer 4-1 to clinch their weekend series. Though Thompson had thrown just 78 pitches, Golloway went to the bullpen to start the eighth inning.
Auburn improved to 8-6 and will go for the sweep Sunday at 1 p.m. Mercer, ranked No. 11 in the latest RPI, fell to 12-4.
Thompson struck out two and walked three in running his streak of scoreless innings to 16. His ERA fell to a miniscule 0.24.
"I felt a little better today than last week, threw a little harder," Thompson said. "My offspeed wasn't working as well as it did last week."
Golloway agreed that Thompson was on his game. He said he took him out to be sure his arm is fresh for next weekend's SEC series against Texas A&M.
"I thought he was really outstanding," Golloway said. "I know there were only two strikeouts. They made a conscious decision they weren't going to swing at anything off-speed and just put the ball in play. There were a lot of pitches we were surprised and Keegan was surprised they weren't swinging at.
"I thought he was just as sharp and just as good as he has been. We wanted to get him out of there with the conference opener next week."
With closer Terrance Dedrick on the mound, the game got interesting in the ninth inning. Dedrick gave up three straight singles, loading the bases with nobody out. Derrick Workman grounded to first baseman Damek Tomscha, who touched the bag and threw home. Catcher Blake Austin put the tag on Sasha LaGarde, but umpire Mike Cheek called him safe.
Golloway protested vehemently, and Cheek threw him out of the game.
"It was a great play by Damek," Austin said. "I wasn't expecting it. The guy ran into my leg. I thought there was no way he touched the plate. I thought he was out. I think Coach agreed, too."
With the score 4-1 and Austin Barrett at the plate, the ball got past Austin. Chesny Young, on third, seemingly had a clear path to the plate. But Austin threw the ball on the plate and Dedrick tagged Young out. Barrett grounded out to Dedrick to end it.
"I don't like to get thrown out of games, but given the luxury of going inside and dismissing yourself completely from the ballgame, wait until you see the play Blake Austin made," Golloway said. "He almost threw it without looking. I have to give Coach (Ryan) Jenkins and Blake Austin a lot of credit. They work on that a lot."
The Tigers sputtered on offense, managing five hits. Two Mercer errors resulted in two runs in the fourth. With the help of an error and two walks, they loaded the bases in the third and freshman Anfernee Grier lined a two-run single to right.
Grier and Dan Glevenyak had two hits apiece for Auburn. Daniel Robert drove home a run with a groundout.
Trey Cochran-Gill pitched a perfect seventh inning for the Tigers.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: