March 15, 2014
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – Freshmen stood tall Saturday and led Auburn to a series-clinching 5-2 victory over No. 23 Texas A&M at Plainsman Park in the first game of a doubleheader.
Keegan Thompson pitched his second complete game, giving up four hits and striking out a career-high 10 in his Southeastern Conference debut to run his record to 4-0. Blake Logan’s two-out pinch-hit single scored the go-ahead run after the Aggies had tied the game at 2-2 in the fifth. And Connor Short’s two-run double gave Auburn some breathing room in the seventh.
Thompson, Logan, Short and Robert were playing high school baseball a year ago.
The Tigers, 4-0 winners over the Aggies on Friday, won their seventh consecutive game. In the nightcap, right-hander Grayson Long, whose ERA dropped to 0.26, was too much for Auburn hitters. The Aggies won 8-0 to avoid a sweep, but the Tigers gave first-year coach Sunny Golloway a series win in his SEC debut and ran their record to 13-7.
Thompson had dominated nonconference opponents. And nothing changed in his first SEC start. After getting out of trouble the fifth inning, he retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced. He struck out 10, including striking out the side in the ninth.
Thompson’s 111th pitch was clocked at 91 miles per hour.
“It was pretty nice,” Thompson said. “I had a little trouble in the fifth inning, but I settled down and went back to throwing fastballs more.”
Golloway said it was what he has come to expect from Thompson, who has given just three runs in five starts.
“I thought we got away from his fastball in the fourth or fifth inning. We went back to it, and that’s what allowed him to finish strong. He’s a big, strong kid, and he had fastball command late in the game. That was the key for him.”
But the second-game game loss was a major disappointment for Thompson and his teammates.
“The first series win in the SEC is really big,” Thompson said. “We would have liked to have come out and swept them, but we just didn’t come out with the same fire we had the first two games. We have to change that.”
Golloway said it is part of the process of building a program.
“I don’t fault our guys as much as I give (Texas A&M) credit,” Golloway said. “I try to preach to them that these games are so important. You just don’t want to have that letdown. It just didn’t happen. We’ll take two out of three, four out of five for the week and get ready for next week. It’s a long journey.”
Auburn got two runs in the first when Dan Glevenyak singled and scored on Damek Tomscha’s double off the left field wall and Tomscha scored on Daniel Robert’s single.
After Texas A&M ended Thompson’s scoreless streak at 20 innings in the top of the fifth, Logan pinch-hit for Robert in the bottom of the inning against left-handed reliever Tyler Stubblefield. Logan slapped a single past third base to score Ryan Tella. After the first two hitters were retired, Tella and Blake Austin singled, setting the stage for Logan.
In the seventh, Short lined a two-run single to right after the Tigers loaded the bases on singles by Tomscha, Tella and Logan.
Jordan Ebert, Tomscha, Tella, Austin, Robert and Logan each had two of Auburn’s season-high 15 hits.
In the nightcap, Long was dominant, striking out seven and giving up six hits. Auburn had opportunities, but left eight runners on base. Glevenyak, Jackson Burgreen and Damon Haecker had two hits apiece.
Auburn played both games without right fielder Anfernee Grier, who Golloway said could be out 10 days to two weeks with a fracture in his right hand. Damek Tomscha, Auburn’s leader in virtually every hitting category, pulled up after getting a base hit in the first inning and did not return to the game.
Golloway said he feared Tomscha had suffered a hamstring injury, but doctors said he had not and could play Tuesday when the Tigers host Coppin State.
“He’s going to be fine,” Golloway said. “In the middle of the game with everything going so fast, we had to take him out. It weakened us a little bit, but we had our chances.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: