Sunny Golloway era: Tigers ready for season-opener


Sunny Golloway talks about season-opening Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla. (Phillip Marshall photo)
 
 2014 Auburn Baseball - Games 1-3 - 2014 Snowbird Classic
 Dates  Friday-Sunday, Feb. 14-16
 Matchups  Friday: Auburn vs. Indiana State - Noon CT - Live Stats
 Saturday: Auburn vs. Ohio State - 11 a.m. CT - Live Stats
 Sunday: Auburn vs. Connecticut - 10 a.m. CT - Live Stats
 Location  Charlotte Sports Park (Friday)
 North Charlotte Regional Park (Saturday-Sunday)
 Tickets  $7.00/day | Ticket Information
 Radio  Friday - 94.3 FM | Saturday - 98.1 FM | Sunday: 106.5 FM
 Online  Auburn Game Notes | Live Audio | Twitter: @AUTigerBaseball
 
 Probable Starting Pitchers (2013 Stats)
 Friday  RHP Dillon Ortman (2-1, 4.88) vs. RHP Kurt Kudrecki (1-1, 1.57)
 Saturday  LHP Michael O'Neal (8-4, 2.73) vs. LHP Ryan Riga (3-0, 2.14)
 Sunday  RHP Keegan Thompson (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Brian Ward (2-3, 3.59)
 
 
By Phillip Marshall
AuburnTigers.com
 
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -
The beginning of the Sunny Golloway era of Auburn baseball is at hand. After nine seasons as head coach at Oklahoma and six at Oral Roberts, Golloway will begin another journey at 11 a.m. CST Friday when Auburn plays Indiana State in its season-opener in the Snowbird Classic.
 
Golloway, who has been to 14 NCAA regionals, four super regionals and a College World Series, was named Auburn head coach last June. He made it clear in a hurry that the old days of cautious expectations were gone.
 
"The bottom line is we want to play for championships," Golloway said. "That means the West, the SEC Tournament, a regional, a super regional and the College World Series. Let's be a championship type club. Let's try to earn a ring every year."
 
In the eight months since he arrived, Golloway has been Auburn baseball's biggest promoter. He makes no secret that he believes he has a team that can be a championship contender. He retained pitching coach and ace recruiter Scott Foxhall and hired former major leaguer Greg Norton to coach the hitters. He added to plans already in place for facilities upgrades that have dramatically changed the amenities for players and coaches.
 
And Friday, it will be time to play at last.
 
Eleven seniors, an almost unheard of number for an upper-level Division I baseball team, are on the trip. Catcher Ryan Tella, shortstop Dan Glevenyak, catcher Blake Austin and pitcher Dillon Ortman will be starters Friday. Senior Michael O'Neal will start on the mound Saturday. Centerfielder Ryan Tella will join them Sunday after sitting out two-game suspension.
 
"Sometimes you have seniors, and they will panic if they're not in the lineup," Golloway said. "They all want to play major league baseball, and seniors can get in that panic mode of `This is my last year.' We are not going to allow that to happen. We are going to make sure they play for what is on the front of their jersey.
 
"They've all had a fair opportunity. They know what their roles are. They are going to be asked to fill their roles. We are going to be a team first and foremost. They understand that. That's not taking a hard line. That's taking a straight line."
 
Through it all, Golloway says, he wants his players to have fun.
 
"We're not going to sit here and say `Hey, we are going to be rough and tough and military about this and that,'" he said. "It's college baseball. It's meant to be fun. Baseball is fun without me even stepping on the yard. If you are the best player you are going to play."
 
Golloway inherited an Auburn program that had fallen far from the big-winning days of Hal Baird and Steve Renfroe. In the past 10 season, the Tigers have been to just two NCAA regionals. They made the SEC Tournament the past two seasons only because the field was expanded to 10 teams.
 
"The experience of losing, not getting in the NCAA Tournament, the experience of watching the NCAA Tournament or watching the College World Series, that's not good experience," Golloway said. "Let's utilize the experiences we can benefit from and have amnesia about the other things."
 
O'Neal, the projected staff ace, will get the start for Auburn on Saturday against Ohio State. Freshman Keegan Thompson will start on Sunday against Connecticut. Senior Terrance Dedrick will be the closer and Trey Cochran-Gill the setup man.
 
A look at who will play:

CATCHER

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.

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.

FIRST BASE

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.

SECOND BASE

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.

SHORTSTOP

Dan Glevenyak, 6-1, 198, Sr. Hit .230 with two home runs and nine doubles in 2013.

THIRD BASE

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.

LEFT FIELD

1. Jordan Ebert, 6-1, 177, So. Hit .303 with six doubles, a triple and four home runs in 2013.

2. Hunter Kelley, 6-1, 186, Sr. Hit .246 last season with two home runs. Top-notch defensive outfielder.

CENTERFIELD

1. 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. Will not play in the first two games.

2. J.J. Shaffer, 5-9, 161, Fr. Hit .406 for his career at Auburn High School and .428 as a senior. Hit five home runs, drove in 34 runs and stole 21 bases. Will start the first two games.

RIGHT FIELD

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 COULD PLAY

So. OF Sam Gillikin, So. OF Jackson Burgreen, So. OF Rock Rucker, Sr. 1B/DH Patrick Savage, Jr. 2B Taylor Cimo, Fr. C Connor Short, So. INF Dylan Smith.

PITCHERS

LHP Michael O'Neal, 6-1, 220, Sr. (89 IP, 8 wins, 4 losses, 2.73 ERA).

RHP Dillon Ortman, 6-2, 198, Sr. (27 2/3 IP, 2 wins, 1 loss, 4.88 ERA).

RHP Keegan Thompson, 6-1, 208, Fr.

RHP Terrance Dedrick, 5-10, 183, Sr. (39. 2 IP, 4 wins, 2 losses, 10 saves, 3.62 ERA).

RHP Trey Cochran-Gill, 5-10, 191, Jr. (41.2 IP, 1 win, 1 loss, 2 saves, 3.02 ERA).

RHP Justin Camp, 6-1, 220, So. (40 IP, 5 wins, 1 loss, 2 saves, 2.44 ERA).

LHP Daniel Koger, 6-6, 184, Jr. (46.2 IP, 0 wins, 3 losses, 5.01 ERA).

RHP Jay Wade 5-10, 211 Sr. (5 IP, 9.00 ERA, 0 wins, 0 losses, 1 save).

RHP Trey Wingenter, 6-7, 201, So. (14 IP, 1win, 0 losses, 3.68 ERA).

RHP. Rocky McCord, 6-2, 173, Jr. (25 IP, 2 wins, 1 loss, 3.96 ERA).

RHP Chase Williamson, 6-2, 188, Jr. (26 IP, 3 wins, 0 losses, 3.46 ERA).

RHP Reid Carter, 6-3, 200, Sr. (22.2 IP, 1 win, 2 losses, 1 save, 2.78 ERA).

RHP Kevin Davis, 6-0, 218, Fr.

RHP Cole Lipscomb, 6-1, 191, RFr.

RHP Robby Clements, 6-5, 212, Jr.

 
       

Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: