By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn's pitching staff will be at full strength this weekend at Texas A&M with Keegan Thompson returning after skipping a start.
"We feel like our starting pitching is something we have to have as part of our success," said Auburn coach Butch Thompson. "Getting our three starters back is huge for our club."
Thompson, 4-0 with a 0.70 ERA, is scheduled to pitch Saturday at 3 p.m. against the Aggies. He rested a sore right shoulder last week against South Carolina. Casey Mize (4-1, 1.58) will pitch Friday's series opener at 6:30 p.m. Freshman Davis Daniel (2-1, 4.83) will pitch Sunday at 1 p.m.
"We think we're built for the weekend," said Butch Thompson, whose No. 7 Tigers (23-8, 7-2) have won each of their first seven weekend series. "I know that's a tall order to win every series on the weekend all year long, but at least we're 31 ballgames into a season and continue to be able to do that.
"We're going to hang on to that for dear life at a tough SEC venue."
Auburn, which began the season with 22 home games, embarks on a season-long, eight-game road trip, including next weekend's series at Tennessee sandwiched between away games at Samford and Kennesaw State.
"I like going on the road, because it allows our team -- we're kind of by ourselves," Thompson said. "I'm going to see it as an opportunity for great growth for our team to be together for these eight games. Compete together.
"We've just got to keep trying to grow and have competitive at-bats," he said. "Every time you go into an SEC weekend. Scoring runs and playing offense is at a premium because we've seen so many good arms these first three weeks of SEC play, and definitely nothing changes when you go to Texas A&M."
Even without Keegan Thompson, Auburn won two of three last weekend against No. 6 South Carolina. Mize struck out a career-high 12 in a complete-game 5-4 win on Friday. Freshman pinch-hitter Conor Davis drilled a 3-run walk-off home run in Sunday's 6-5 series clincher.
"I think it builds confidence," Butch Thompson said. "From outside the team, I think we just realize the potential of what Auburn baseball can be. How much our community, our college community, the Auburn community, surrounding areas, what Auburn baseball can be."
Attendance for the South Carolina series, 11,914, was the third largest in Plainsman Park history and the highest in 14 years.
"If we'll keep attacking every day, and just keep trying to play the game the best we can, and play with a competitive style, I think the Auburn family respects that," Thomson said.
Auburn returns to Plainsman Park for a series against Arkansas on April 21-23.
"We've got to be gone for a little while and hopefully we'll continue to do that, and hopefully come back and our crowd will pick right back up with us as we will have a tough Arkansas team here," Thompson said. "If we're still in a good position in our league to keep competing."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer