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'This starts the journey' - Thompson's Tigers begin SEC play
March 17, 2016

By Jeff Shearer

The best way to break out of a slump? Score double-digit runs in three straight games.

Best way to build confidence before the country's second-ranked team comes to town? Knock off a top 25 team. On the road.

For Butch Thompson's Tigers, Tuesday's 14-3 win at No. 22 Georgia Tech came at an ideal time.

"Tuesday night showed us we can go on the road, or we can play a great team," Thompson said. "I hope that tells us if we play the game of baseball, if we do what we're supposed to do, we should have a chance to beat anybody."

"This past week was really a big confidence-builder," junior catcher Blake Logan said. "For us to get back to the playing the game the way we're taught to play."

Auburn (9-8) snapped a five-game losing streak last Saturday by beating Oral Roberts, 10-1. On Sunday, Auburn crossed the plate 18 times against ORU. In their past three games, the Tigers have scored 42 runs.

"That's how quickly it can turn around," Thompson said. "This age group is resilient.

"Sometimes you can get on a bus, and as a coach, you wear it all the way home. So I wear it all the way home in my thought process. `What do I do next as a coach to get us going?' Once they get a little bite to eat and they get on the bus, they're right back to being 18, 19, 20 years old again. I can take a lesson from them. They get over a win or a loss pretty quick. Sometimes it's the adults who have the problem moving on. That's how resilient they are. They bounce back. Had a good week. I just want it to continue."

Texas A&M (16-1) also picked up a big mid-week win, beating rival Texas 5-4 on Tuesday, thanks to former LSU catcher Michael Barash's walk-off home run. The Aggies have won 11 consecutive games. Their .338 batting average leads the SEC.

Auburn will start senior Justin Camp on Friday at 6:30 p.m., freshman Casey Mize Saturday at 3, and senior Cole Lipscomb Sunday at 1 at Plainsman Park.

Andrew Mitchell, who has been impressive as a midweek starter, could pitch in relief on Sunday if the situation merits it.

Logan has seen improvement from Auburn's staff.

"From the beginning of the year until now, I feel like it's been monumental," he said. "A lot of guys are really understanding what coach Thompson's been preaching to them. I think they've really matured. There's still a lot of work to do with them and with us as position players. I think we're taking a step forward."

Strong outings from Auburn's starters could give the Tigers the best chance to avoid seeing the Aggies' trio of talented relievers, what Thompson calls a "luxury" for Texas A&M.

"A proven bullpen with electric arms," he said. "We're talking about 95 mph, and some guys who can run it up close to the century mark."

The start of conference play is the latest in a season of firsts for Auburn's first-year coaching staff.

"Our job is to continue our growth with the conference season starting. We're excited about this," Thompson said. "It's the best league in America. I've believed that for a long period of time. I don't think I'm alone in that in belief.

"This is the league that the guys who are in our uniform, they either always wanted to be at Auburn, they wanted to be in the SEC, and they wanted to play at the highest level of competition," he said. "And this starts the journey for 2016."

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



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