Former Bearcat Thompson shines on mound in Birmingham


Former Bearcat Keegan Thompson was on the mound in Birmingham Tuesday night for the Tennessee Smokies, facing off against the Birmingham Barons. (Nick Griffin for The Tribune)

BIRMINGHAM – Former Bearcat great Keegan Thompson was on the mound in Birmingham Tuesday night and a crowd of black and gold made its way to Regions Field to support one of its own. Thompson threw five innings and allowed two runs on six hits while picking up seven strikeouts in the Tennessee Smokies’ 6-4 loss to the Birmingham Barons.

Thompson was drafted in the third round out of Auburn University by the Chicago Cubs last year and started his professional career playing in Eugene, Oregon for the Emeralds. He made five appearances with the Emeralds before being moved up to play Advanced-A for the Pelicans in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the start of the 2018 season. In 12 outings with the Pelicans, Thompson posted a 3-3 record, a 3.19 ERA, 61 strikeouts and just 13 walks. One of those outings included a perfect seven-inning performance on June 14 against the Carolina Mudcats which earned Thompson his second Carolina Pitcher of the Week award. Before his next opportunity to start for the Pelicans, Thompson was called up to play in AA for the Tennessee Smokies in Knoxville.

Thompson has enjoyed his young professional career so far and he’s quickly learning what it takes to compete at that level.

“The last year has been fun, but it’s been a learning experience,” Thompson said. “I’ve had good outings, but my first starts at every level have gone poorly. You have to learn to make adjustments and not dwell on previous starts whether they’re good or bad.”

Tuesday night’s start was the first time since his Auburn days that Thompson saw a local crowd in the stands.

“It’s going to be a neat experience to look up in the stands and see a crowd of Cullman fans in the stands,” Thompson said early in the evening. “It’ll be the first time in about five or six years, so it’ll be nice to have that hometown support there in person.”

Thompson has had a great 2018 campaign so far, but he plans to keep it simple and take things one step at a time.

“My mindset for the rest of the year and going forward is simple: just take it day by day. They weren’t lying when they said MILB (Minor League Baseball) was a grind,” Thompson said. “You’re going to have ups and downs and you can’t let either throw you off. I’m not worried about what level I’m at, as long as I’m going out every day and doing my work, I feel like the rest will take care of itself.”

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