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Tigers open with six games in six days

AUBURN | With 20 newcomers including a completely revamped infield and outfield, Auburn is set to open the season Friday afternoon for the first of a four-game series against George Washington.

The Tigers will play the Colonials in a double-header Saturday and conclude the series Sunday. Jacksonville State will visit Tuesday and Florida A&M Wednesday giving Auburn six games in six days.

The Tigers also start the season with 22 straight home games, the most in program history.

“I’m thankful that we play six games in six days,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “What that does, because of all this unknown, it allows us to give everybody an opportunity. I would say the majority if not all of our roster will have a hand in these six games.

“We’ll see our challenges, but we’ll know more about our team next Thursday after going through this process.”

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Thompson begins his second season at Auburn Friday.
Wade Rackley/Auburn athletics

Auburn lost seven starters from last season and must replace 86 percent of its home runs, 70 percent of its RBI and 76 percent of its runs scored.

At least five junior college transfers are expected to start the opener in third baseman Josh Anthony, shortstop Luke Jarvis, second baseman Jay Estes, centerfielder Jonah Todd and designated hitter Dylan Ingram.

Six seniors could play a prominent role in the field and at the plate this season. Daniel Robert returns at first base and will also be used as a relief pitcher and possibly in the outfield. Blake Logan has returned from an illness to be the likely opening day starter at catcher while Damon Haecker impressed after moving to catcher during preseason practice.

Bo Decker will be the starter in left field after redshirting last year and Sam Gillikin could also start or play a prominent role in the outfield after not playing last season. J.J. Shaffer also returns in the outfield with 98 games of playing experience.

Without a lot of proven power returning in the lineup, Thompson and his staff have emphasized some small ball techniques to help the team manufacture runs.

“We’ve definitely worked on bunts every single day and small ball and moving runners over and things like that,” said redshirt freshman Jeremy Johnson, who may be the opening day starter in right field.

Junior college transfer Bowen McGuffin will also have a role in the outfield while freshmen Conor Davis and Will Holland will play in the infield.

“I would anticipate all six outfielders playing in the four games. To me, that’s pretty neat,” Thompson said. “We like Bo a lot in left. I’ve made that fairly clear. Jonah Todd, the emergence of him, has been really neat.”

PITCHING MATCHUPS
AUBURN GEORGE WASHINGTON

FRI

JR RHP Keegan Thompson (7-3, 3.10)

FR RHP Elliott Raimo (HS)

SAT1

SO RHP Casey Mize (2-5, 3.52)

JR RHP Brady Renner (0-2, 8.61)

SAT2

SR RHP Gabe Klobosits (3-5, 4.70)

SR LHP Shane Sweeney (2-3, 4.95)

SUN

FR RHP Davis Daniel (HS)

JR RHP Robbie Metz (2-5, 5.97)

The starting pitching should be bolstered by the return of Keegan Thompson from elbow surgery. Auburn’s ace from the 2014 and 15 seasons joins sophomore Casey Mize, Gabe Klobosits and freshman Davis Daniel as opening weekend starters.

The bullpen doesn’t have a proven stopper but is deeper with the return of veterans Cole Lipscomb, Andrew Mitchell, Daniel Sprinkle and Robert, along with the additions of freshman Ryan Watson, JUCO transfer Cory Herndon and several others.

First pitch at Plainsman Park Friday is set for 2 p.m. CT. The two teams will play twice Saturday starting at 11 a.m. and Sunday at noon. The JSU and FAMU games will both begin at 3 p.m.

All six games will be available for streaming on SECN+ and WatchESPN.

“Last year it didn’t materialize, but the best teams I’ve ever coached are the teams that get better as the season goes on. That’s definitely a thought process of this club,” Thompson said. “We need to see how good we are instead of acting like we know.

"I want to know where we’re at. I want to know what every player can do. If you just go into three, four weeks and you space it all out and try to create comfort, you might not have all your answers.”

CHECK OUT ALL OUR PRESEASON BASEBALL COVERAGE...

Thompson, Mize anchor improved pitching staff

Late redshirt pays off for Decker

Thompson likes his 'dirtbag' at second base

Jarvis solidifying Auburn's infield

Several early standouts for Thompson

Competition, depth increase in Thompson's second year

Rojas preparing for big role

Keegan back on the mound as Auburn opens practice

Improving production at catcher a key for Auburn

Freshman pitcher has a 'real skill set'

Anthony impressing at the plate and in the field

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