Image: Will Sahlie/AuburnTigers.com
AUBURN – Cullman native Keegan Thompson and the Auburn baseball team have shared something together in 2017: A bounce-back season after disappointment last year.
By posting a winning record in the SEC, Thompson and the Tigers were given a bid to participate in the NCAA Regionals Monday morning.
Auburn is the No. 3 seed heading to the Tallahassee Regional. The Tigers take a 35-24 record to Dick Howser Stadium and play Central Florida (40-20) in the first round Friday at 11 a.m.
Thompson has been a part of the turnaround for the Tigers after they didn't make the playoffs last season. Thompson was out for the season with an arm injury; Auburn was only 23-33 and coach Sunny Golloway was fired last summer.
Butch Thompson was hired and the results have been enjoyable on the plains this spring.
]Thompson was second in wins for the Tigers at six, three vs. SEC opponents. The right-hander compiled a 2.43 earned run average, second best among regulars. The opposition found Thompson to hit, as he yielded a .205 average, tops on the team.
In 85 and a third innings, Thompson allowed 63 hits, walked 16 and struck out 66 batters. In his final regular season outing, Thompson worked six innings against Ole Miss on May 18 at Plainsman Park, giving up two hits, striking out eight in a 4-1 Tiger victory. That propelled the Tigers to a winning record in the SEC and sent them to the SEC tournament as the eighth overall seed.
Thompson started the opener, an elimination bracket game with Ole Miss. He worked three innings then was relieved by teammate Casey Mize after a long rain delay last Tuesday at the Hoover Met.
Auburn won 5-4, but the Tigers were eliminated by back-to-back losses the next two days to Florida and Arkansas.
Thompson is likely to start in the regional opener, or coach Thompson may go with Mize, who has a 7-2 record for the season. They are the two prominent men on the mound as the Tigers try to move forward in the regional.
The other side of the bracket is top seed Florida State (39-20) vs. fourth seed Tennessee Tech (40-19).
Thompson is 18-10 in three seasons on the plains with a 2.46 ERA. Thompson has 201 strikeouts to just 55 walks in 244 innings. The opposition is hitting .209 against him, career-wise.
Thompson will be joined by another Cullman Bearcat next season. Infielder Carter Bowen signed a letter of intent to play for the Tigers last winter and brings plenty of success from a great high school career, as Thompson did.
Thompson has seized the moment in a return to glory. Auburn is capable of coming through this regional, even though Florida State is not easy to defeat in Tallahassee. But anything is possible in the grand ole game.
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