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'Nothing changes' - Auburn baseball opens SEC play vs No. 5 Florida
Keegan Thompson (3.0, 0.64 ERA) will pitch Auburn's SEC opener against No. 5 Florida Friday at 6 p.m.
March 16, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - The pitcher's mound is still 60 feet, 6 inches away from home plate. The bases, still 90 feet apart.

Yes, the No. 5 Florida Gators will be in the visitor's dugout and the games count in the conference standings, but Auburn coach Butch Thompson says the game is the same.

"It's baseball," Thompson said. "Nothing changes. We're just playing the game."

Auburn takes a 4-game winning streak into its opening SEC series. The Tigers are 14-5. The Gators are 13-5.

"I do believe in my heart it's the best league in America, from my experience," Thompson said.

Fans of elite pitching figure to be in for a treat this weekend at Plainsman Park. The highest ERA among the Friday-Saturday starters is 1.50.

Keegan Thompson, 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA, faces Florida junior Alex Faedo, 3-0, 1.37, in Friday's series opener at 6 p.m.

Casey Mize, 2-0, 0.40 ERA, opposes the Gators' Brady Singer 2-0, 1.50, Saturday at 2 p.m. Freshman Davis Daniel, 1-0, 4.50, pitches Sunday's 1 p.m. finale against Jackson Kowar, 2-0, 2.19.

"I like my three starters," Butch Thompson said. "My charge to them is to, `Compete your heart out. Make me have to pull you off that mound.' I'm going to be slow to pull our starters in this series.

"I want them to go out and give them their best shot. Let's see how we can match up with I think one of the best teams in America."

Auburn leads the nation with seven shutouts.

"We'll continue to embrace the things we're doing well," Thompson said. "And hopefully enjoy the ride.



"I want us to understand what's our best shot of playing the game at the highest level and that'll be us trying to pound the bottom of the strike zone," he said.

Senior catcher Blake Logan has been behind the plate for five of Auburn's shutouts. Senior Damon Haecker caught the other two.

"The way Keegan and Casey have thrown, everybody knows their role and is ready to attack this SEC schedule," Haecker said. "It's one of the toughest schedules anyone could face. I think that's the big thing -- our bullpen is starting to fire on all cylinders. I think that'll be big going into SEC play."

Auburn leads the SEC with 19 double plays turned, including 12 in the past eight games.

"It's starting to come and the guys are starting to feel it a little bit," said Thompson, who's Mississippi State teams led D-I baseball in turning two from 2011-2015. "I think the guys are starting to get a little fill of it. I've seen some good stuff happening."

Much of that good stuff has occurred on the mound. Auburn's pitchers have allowed just one earned run in the past 36 innings.

"We're just starting to initialize the first full season, but the sooner we can stand there and keep understanding that we're not trying to rise to a level of competition, we're just trying to go with the training we've put in," Thompson said. "I think we'll get where we want to be sooner."

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

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