Feb. 18, 2014
| Probable Starting Pitchers
|| RHP Justin Camp (0-0, 0.00, 1 SV) vs. TBA
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - In the first three games of his first season as Auburn's head baseball coach, Sunny Golloway played 14 position players. Seven of them were true freshmen. And the prominence of freshmen in the lineup isn't likely to change as the Tigers move forward, starting with Wednesday's home opener against Alabama State at Plainsman Park.
"These freshmen are special," Golloway said. "Everybody had a chance. They wouldn't be out there if they had not earned it."
As the Tigers beat Indiana State, lost to Ohio State and beat UConn in the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla., freshman had 10 of their 21 hits. Right fielder Anfernee Grier and second baseman Damon Haecker had three apiece. Centerfielder J.J. Shaffer, who played the first two games, had two. Catcher Blake Logan and first baseman/pitcher Keegan Thompson had one apiece. Thompson also drove home a run with a squeeze bunt.
On Sunday, Thompson pitched 5 2/3 dominant innings to get the win in his first college start on the mound and also played first base.
"I think our freshmen did the job," Haecker said. "Every game we are going to learn different things we are going to need later on in the year."
Getting their first taste of college baseball, Haecker says, was important. And winning on Sunday after a disappointing loss on Saturday was important.
"I know the momentum is going to carry over," Haecker said. "We just have to build as a team and hopefully by the end of it we'll be where we need to be."
Senior Ryan Tella sat out the first two games finishing out a suspension that started last fall. Shaffer took his place and showed his speed on defense and on the basepaths. The freshmen, Tella says, are ahead of their time.
"It's huge," Tella said. "We've got 13 more weekends, and each weekend they are going to improve."
Among the freshmen, Haecker and Grier played every inning of all three games. Shaffer played all of the first two games. Thompson played all the first two at first base and pitched, was the DH and played first base in the finale. Blake Logan caught the final inning of the first game and started the second game before giving way to senior Blake Austin late. Brett Binning played one inning at third base in the finale. Daniel Robert was the designated hitter and in the opener for part of the second game and started at first base with Thompson on the mound in the third game.
"Every series is going to give us more experience and confidence," Thompson said. "We're going to be good."
PARKING INFO FOR WEDNESDAY'S GAME: The Coliseum lot, Stadium Parking Deck and the top level of the Athletic Complex Parking Deck will be open for fans to park beginning at Noon CT for midweek baseball games. The Auburn Arena lot will be open for parking beginning at 3 p.m. CT. Fans should park in marked, legal spaces.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: