Feb. 9, 2014
Keegan Thompson helped Team USA's 18 & under team to a world championship
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Barring last minute changes, at least three freshmen and four seniors will be among starting position players when Auburn's baseball team opens head coach Sunny Golloway's first season as head coach against Indiana State on Friday in the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla.
Keegan Thompson, who is scheduled to be the starting pitcher on Sunday, will start at first base. He played last season at Cullman High School. Damon Haecker, from Lake Brantley (Fla.) High School will start at second and Anfernee Grier of Russell County High School in Phenix City will start in right field.
Senior Blake Austin will start at catcher, senior Dan Glevenyak at shortstop, senior Damek Tomscha at third base, sophomore Jordan Ebert in left field and senior Ryan Tella in centerfield. Freshman Blake Logan, from Muscle Shoals High School, will have a role spelling Austin, Golloway said.
When Thompson is pitching, freshman Daniel Robert from Briarwood Christian will play first base. In other games, he will be the designated hitter.
"We are trying some other guys at some spots just in case, but we like what we've been looking at," Golloway said.
Thompson earned his spot in the pitching rotation in the fall and has claimed the starter's job at first base in preseason practice.
"He's shown us a glimpse of maybe what Tim Hudson was back in the day, and that's saying a lot," Golloway said. "He can really swing the bat. He's not getting to swing it in the live-bat era like Hudson did, but he's a big, strong guy who likes to attack the first pitch in the zone.
"I like his athleticism around first base and the way he competes on the mound. He has a quiet nature, but he's very competitive."
Thompson says balancing pitching and playing a position was challenging in high school, where he played shortstop, and will be even more challenging in the SEC. But he's eager to do it.
"It's going to be fun," Thompson said. "It's going to be kind of difficult moving between pitching and hitting and first base, getting my practice work in at every position, but I think it's going to work out for the best."
As reported by AuburnTigers.com earlier, senior Dillon Ortman will be the opening-day Auburn starter on the mound. Senior Michael O'Neal will start on Saturday and Thompson on Sunday. Trey Cochran-Gill will be the setup man and Terrance Dedrick the closer. Dedrick could also be a two-way player.
Freshman right-hander Kevin Davis is expected to yet push for a spot in the starting rotation. He has had limited work because of soreness in his arm.
Here is a look at how the position players will likely stack up in the first weekend:
1. Blake Austin, 6-1, 220, Sr. Hit .290, with 3 home runs and team-leading 13 doubles in 2013. Threw out 20 of 45 base-stealers, third in the SEC. Team captain.
2. Blake Logan, 6-0, 195, Fr. All-State and All-Area selection as a senior at Muscle Shoals High School. Ranked No. 1 catcher in Alabama by Perfect Game.
1. Keegan Thompson, 6-1, 208, Fr. Gatorade Alabama Player of the Year in 2011 and 2013. Won gold medals in 18 & under and 16 & under competition with USA Baseball. Ranked No. 2 overall player in Alabama and No. 1 pitcher by Perfect Game. First-team Rawlings All-American. No. 18 pitcher and No. 63 overall prospect nationally.
2. Daniel Robert, 6-4, 249, Fr. Hit .556 with 10 home runs as a senior at Briarwood Christian. Played for former Auburn head coach Steve Renfroe.
Damon Haecker, 5-9, 167, Fr. All-conference and All-district selection as a junior and senior at Lake Brantley (Fla.) High School. Switch-hitter.
Dan Glevenyak, 6-1, 198, Sr. Hit .230 with two home runs and nine doubles in 2013.
Damek Tomscha, 6-3, 227, Sr. Hit .274 and tied for team lead with seven home runs. Had 12 doubles and drove in 26 runs.
Jordan Ebert, 6-1, 177, So. Hit .303 with six doubles, a triple and four home runs in 2013.
Ryan Tella, 6-0, 175, Sr. Has 115 consecutive starts in centerfield. Hit .259 with three home runs and a team-high 39 RBI in 2013. In 2012, hit a team-high .360 with five home runs, 12 doubles and four triples. Second-team All-SEC. Drafted in the 11th round by the San Francisco Giants.
Anfernee Grier, 5-11, 167, Fr. Drafted in the 39th round by the Detroit Tigers in 2013. Ranked No. 1 prospect in Alabama and No. 55 nationally by Perfect Game. First-team Rawlings All-American as a senior at Russell County High School in Phenix City.
OTHERS WHO WILL CHALLENGE FOR PLAYING TIME
Sr. OF Hunter Kelley, So. OF Sam Gillikin, So. OF Jackson Burgreen, So. OF Rock Rucker, Sr. 1B/DH Patrick Savage, Jr. 2B Taylor Cimo, Fr. INF Connor Short, Fr. OF J.J. Shaffer, So. INF Dylan Smith.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: