By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - A pregame reunion. An in-game showdown for SEC West supremacy.
Auburn's road trip to Mississippi State allows Butch Thompson to see his daughter, friends and former players, and his pitching staff return to full strength.
After skipping a start to rest, sophomore Casey Mize is available to pitch in the top 10 matchup.
"Very excited about Casey," Thompson said. "He's had a great week of work. Looks like he's ready to go and chomping at the bit."
Auburn's pitchers will face the SEC's leading hitter, MSU junior Brent Rooker, who leads the conference in average, home runs, RBI, hits, doubles and stolen bases.
"We're excited about that opportunity," Butch Thompson said. "We're excited about playing in that venue, representing Auburn. Hopefully we can go over there and take it as a business trip and realize that we have to keep the chip on our shoulder and we have to play good baseball to have success."
Thompson, who came back to Auburn in 2015 after seven seasons at Mississippi State, recruited and developed many of the players on the Bulldogs' roster.
"Mississippi State will always be special, just like Auburn will always be special to me and my family," he said. "I may not have had the opportunity of a lifetime to be the head coach at Auburn if not for my time there of growing and people investing in me."
Thompson's daughter, Anna, is a freshman at Mississippi State. His former head coach, John Cohen, is State's athletic director.
"It's always good to go back and see folks, but I want our team to play great over there," Thompson said. "I'm so thankful to be at Auburn and to lead this program and this journey that we're on, and Mississippi State is a part of me getting this opportunity."
No. 8 Mississippi State (29-14, 13-5) leads Auburn by one game in the SEC West.
"Last weekend, Arkansas came in here in first place, and now we're going to Mississippi State and they're in first place, so our last six games are against first place teams in the SEC," Thompson said. "It's a tough, exciting stretch. Three out of four SEC weekends have been on the road, which is a challenge for any team in the Southeastern Conference."
Auburn has won nine of 10 series this season, including taking two of three against the Razorbacks last weekend.
"I love how we're competing," Thompson said. "I love the opportunity. We're really close to being one of the top teams in the SEC and we get an opportunity to keep trying to write our own script, control our own destiny."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer