March 13, 2014
Dillon Ortman will start Auburn's SEC opener against Texas A&M on Friday night (Zach Bland photo)
| Probable Starting Pitchers
|| RHP Dillon Ortman (3-1, 2.49) vs. RHP Daniel Mengden (2-2, 2.67)
| Saturday - Game 1
|| RHP Keegan Thompson (3-0, 0.30) vs. RHP Parker Ray (2-0, 4.15)
| Saturday - Game 2
|| RHP Justin Camp (1-1, 2.10) vs. RHP Grayson Long (1-0, 0.34)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - For first-year coach Sunny Golloway and for his players, the serious business of baseball season starts Friday night at Plainsman Park when Auburn plays host to No. 23 Texas A&M in the first Southeastern Conference series of the season.
"I'm here for a reason, and it's getting ready to start on Friday," said Golloway, who moved from Oklahoma to Auburn last summer. "... Any other conference wouldn't have lured me away. This conference did, this school did. I'm probably going to be more nervous than these guys."
Hot-hitting senior Damek Tomscha, who has hit home runs in Auburn's past three games, echoed his coach's sentiments.
"This is why a lot of us came to Auburn," Tomscha said, "to play in the SEC."
Auburn will send senior right-hander Dillon Ortman (3-1, 2.49) to the mound Saturday against junior right-hander Daniel Mengden (2-2, 2.67). Freshman right-hander Keegan Thompson (3-0, 0.30) will pitch Saturday against senior right-hander Parker Ray (2-0, 4.15) and sophomore right-hander Justin Camp (1-1, 2.10) will pitch Sunday against sophomore right-hander Grayson Long (1-0, 0.35). Camp displaces senior Michael O'Neal, who started 14 games last season and led the team with eight wins.
"Nothing against O'Neal, but Camp just threw it too well to not be in our rotation," Golloway said. "Keegan (Thompson) has got to be in our rotation, and you can't say enough about what (Dillon) Ortman has done as our lead guy. So we've got to go like that.
"If we need O'Neal, we can go to him for some long relief or a couple of lefties here and there, and if we don't, he'll go try to win that midweek game for us."
The Tigers (11-6) will ride a five-game winning streak into the game. Texas A&M is 13-5 and has won six of its last seven.
Golloway saw plenty of Texas A&M and head coach Rob Childress when he was at Oklahoma and the Aggies were in the Big 12 Conference.
"I know what kind of team he's going to bring in," Golloway said. "They're going to play tough. They are going to play fast, and they're going to be pitching-heavy. That's what they rely on - pitching and defense and scrapping runs. They're probably mirroring what we're trying to build here.
"They've already had their round through the SEC, and I'm getting mine. But we've got some guys that have got experience on our side. It's their first time to come here, so I expect our veterans to step up and carry us a little bit this weekend."
Tomscha is Auburn's hottest hitter. His .356 batting average, five home runs and 16 runs batted in all are team highs.
"I think we've all done a pretty good job," Tomscha said. "I think all of us are excited to get going. Anytime you are winning ballgames, it makes you a little more confident."
Jordan Ebert and Ryan Tella have .340 batting averages for the Tigers. Dan Glevenyak is hitting .304 and Anfernee Grier .300.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: