Auburn Baseball Nationally Ranked

By Posted on: March 25th, 2014 in Baseball 4 Comments »
5324df14cf0dd.image- auburn Baseball  crack top 25

                                                                                                (photo:Albert Cesare,Opelika/Auburn News)
The Auburn Baseball Team has broken into the Top 25 teams in the country for the first time this season. Four out of five national polls including Baseball America have the Tigers ranked. The No.21 ranking comes on the heels of the Tigers’ second SEC series victory in the last week and a half.

Auburn took two of three games against Texas A&M and two against No.18 Tennessee to garner the national recognition. The Tigers are now 17-8; 4-2 in the SEC and have won 11 of their last 13 games. Auburn has done it on strong pitching and a revived offense that has outscored opponents in four of the last five games 30-6.

The Tigers will be back in action tonight in a home game against Kennesaw State before playing their third SEC series of the season Thursday when they take on Missouri at Plainsman Park in an ESPNU 6:30 game. First pitch for tonight’s game will be at 6 p.m. CT.

Congratulations to our Tigers and keep it going!

Update:
The No. 21 Tigers beat Kennesaw State 10-5, picking up their 12th win out of the last 14 games and improved to 18-8 heading into their nationally televised game with SEC foe Missouri on Thursday.

Golloway’s Tigers Getting it Together Just in Time for SEC Play

By Posted on: March 11th, 2014 in Baseball, Featured Article 3 Comments »
9743219-Kegan Thompson

              Keegan Thompson  has only given up one earn run this season. (photo:auburntigers.com)

After a rough start, new Auburn Baseball Coach Sunny Golloway has his Tigers playing the way he has expected. The Tigers played a good game last week in a one run loss in the Capital City Classic, before sweeping a good Mercer team at home over the weekend.

Although the wins came as a result of  what Golloway has been preaching – “a team effort”, the Tigers had several players shine at the right moments.

For the second straight week Freshman sensation Keegan Thompson dominated on the mound. After hurling a one-hit complete game shutout last week, he  delivered seven shutout innings in Saturday’s game to pick up  his third win. He has a 0.30 ERA and has given up just one earned run in 30.0 innings this season. Opponents are only averaging 0.95 against him.

In addition, the bats have also started to come around with sophomore Jordan Ebert leading the charge in the weekend series. Ebert had  two RBI’s, scored five runs, stole 3 basses and hit .545 for the series. Senior Damek Tomscha leads the team with 13 RBI’s and has hit three of the team’s four homeruns this season.

But if there was a star moment in the series it had to be when senior Ryan Tella came to the plate in the ninth inning Sunday and hit a dramatic two out walk off bases loaded single that broke a tie game and gave the Tigers the sweep.

Make no mistake, it was an outstanding team performance against a very good Mercer team. The Bears came in to Plainsman Park 12-2 and ranked No. 11 in the RPI. It couldn’t have come at a better time for the Tigers as they open the SEC season Friday at 6 p.m. when No.25 Texas A&M Aggies come to town for a three game series.

But first things first. Auburn must play Kennesaw State (10-8) on the road today and will be looking to redeem their earlier season loss to Alabama State (15-4) tomorrow at 6 p.m. in Plainsman Park. Then the important part of the season begins …

Let’s go Tigers!

Update: Auburn defeated Kennesaw State 6-1. Four Tiger pitchers combined for AU’s 2nd one hitter of the season. Bring on ASU. War Eagle!

Update (3-12-14) Auburn defeated Alabama State 6-5 to head into SEC play at 11-6 and riding a five game winning streak.

Auburn’s Major Sport Head Coaches.

By Posted on: March 6th, 2014 in Baseball, Basketball, Football 6 Comments »
Head Coach

Where do they stand?
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody. Fat Tuesday has come and gone, and it’s the season for giving things up. Frankly, I’m for giving up cold and ice threats, and trading in for storms, bugs and the stink of blooming Bradford pear trees. Spring football just can’t get here fast enough! So, which of Auburn’s Big Three sports head coaches would you be willing to give up for Lent?

     For Auburn fans, much is right with the world when the football team wins championships. Head football coach Gus Malzhan’s job is safe after leading Auburn to a “worst to first” SEC Title in his first season. Time will tell if success is sustainable. Remember, Terry Bowden won his first 20 games at Auburn.

     The Tiger football team scored a victory of sorts yesterday, as the NCAA Rules committee tabled a proposed “ten second rule” aimed at slowing down hurry-up offenses. Despite frantic lobbying by Nick Saban and Bret Bielema, I think wiser heads prevailed. While the debate is hardly over, college football fans are safe from this rule for this year, at least.

     Nick Saban reached for new levels of ridiculousness in the argument this week, comparing hurry-up offenses to smoking cigarettes. So Nick, you’re the self-appointed Surgeon General of the NCAA now? And I suppose you have peer-reviewed studies linking the hurry-up to cancer? No? I will give Saban credit for having his fall guy Bret Bielema ready just in case.

 

     A week ago, I cautiously spoke to minimal improvements in Auburn’s mens basketball program, what I thought were Tiger chances of reaching the post-season and saving head coach Tony Barbee’s job. Since that piece, the Tigers have imploded. First, the Tigers bricked a double-digit loss to a bad Alabama team, then was blown out at home on Senior Night by Tennessee.

     The Vols took leads of 10-0, 22-4, 27-6, and posted a 44-20 halftime lead, en route to an 82-54 win. Tony Barbee now has 50 SEC losses in just 4 seasons, and took a 28 point beating on his home floor against a team that was just 4-8 on the road. On top of that, Barbee walked out of his post-game press conference after being asked about his job security. Stick a fork in him. He’s done. All that remains this season is a road loss to Texas A&M, and an early exit from the SEC tourney. Even if Barbee is kept on, he loses 4 seniors and will be starting from scratch again next season.

     Auburn baseball woes continue with a 4-3 loss to Alabama in the Capital City Classic. A throwing error gave the Tide the winning run, but the real story was that Auburn only managed 3 hits in the entire game, against a very mediocre 6-5 Crimson Tide team.

     Auburn’s baseball record stands at 5-5, and the tough SEC season is just starting. The lightning rod for criticism thus far has been new head coach Sunny Golloway. I’ll give the man this. He’s not shy about speaking his mind. He’s still insisting that Auburn will make it to the college world series in Omaha this season. I’m betting that he’s seen a UFO or two, and has spotted Bigfoot, too.

     Golloway has shaken the team up with some dismissals and demotions, and most folks agree that the team’s effort has improved. Were these things wisely handled, as Golloway tossed them out into the court of public opinion? I’m not so sure, but I would rather have a coach that tells it like he thinks it is, rather than say, the “good practices this week and things of that nature” we got from a former football coach on a weekly basis while the program was free-falling off the cliff.

     I like a coach who tries to educate his fans. Golloway has repeated that his batters are taking too many called third strikes. That’s a legitimate strategy point, although a bit of a simplistic statement. If guys always swing when the count’s at two strikes, the pitcher will throw it in the dirt every time at that juncture. Galloway preaches being aggressive, and I think he’s right on that score. College baseball has become a pitching and fielding game, after the rules committee dumbed-down the bats a few years back. You’ve got to get runs any way you can. Gone are the days of the 19-17 home-run derby.

     I’m looking forward to the tales of spring football! Auburn has a lot of talent and momentum returning, but there are some areas of concern, as with any team this time of year. I think the biggest area of concern will be the defensive secondary. Jermaine Whitehead and Jonathan Mincy are proven winners. Everyone else healthy on the roster saw action mainly in the second half against teams like Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic. Auburn will be trying to develop some pass defenders, with Marshall and Johnson throwing rockets at them. Should be very interesting!

     Other areas of interest include the defensive line, linebacker, and special teams. Auburn must replace three defensive linemen who took part in the recent Pro Day, but there is a stockpile of depth returning. Who’ll come out on top, and will they be as slow this year to make noise as last year’s group was?

     Auburn must replace Cody Parkey and Steven Clark, who were pretty stellar performers during their careers kicking the ball at Auburn. Will the newcomers struggle, or be stars? How does Auburn replace suddenly-superstar Chris Davis in the return game? Quite honestly, I think the linebacker questions are mainly about depth. I think Frost, McKinzy and Therezie will be good SEC-caliber defenders. Who’ll give them meaningful relief off the bench?

Tigers Look to Continue Winning Streak in Capital City Classic – (Updated 3 – 5 – 14)

By Posted on: March 4th, 2014 in Baseball 2 Comments »
Justin Camp will take the mound for Auburn Tuesday.

               Justin Camp will take the mound for Auburn tonight. (photo:Lauren Barnard,auburntigers.com)

Auburn and Alabama have been playing in Montgomery’s Capital City Classic since 2009. In those five years, the Tigers have never lost to the Tide. Tonight at 6:30 p.m. Auburn will be looking to extend that streak to six games.

Often dubbed the Iron Bowl of Baseball, the classic is played at Riverwalk Stadium, home to the city’s Class AA Minor League team, the ‘Biscuits.’

Although the game doesn’t count toward conference standings, it can be a bell-weather for the SEC season which opens next week. Alabama (5-5) comes into the game hot off of a 12-6 upset of No. 10 Louisiana-Lafayette, while Auburn (6-5) is looking to put a tumultuous week behind them with a victory over their biggest rival.

Senior Ryan Tella, Senior Damek Tomscha, and Freshman Keegan Thompson have led a resurgence for Auburn hitting. The Tigers’ team average drastically improved from .270 to .371 in the weekend series against Presbyterian Coolege. Tella is batting .433 and Tomscha (.371) leads the team in RBI’s with 10 while Thompson hit .417 for the series. Keegan was also named the SEC Freshman of the Week after pitching a one hit complete shutout (3-0) over Presbyterian Saturday.

To outsiders, it may not seem like a big deal when two teams barely playing 500 ball meet but it’s always a big deal whenever Auburn and Alabama meet in any competition. And tonight’s contest has the added drama of being new Auburn Coach, Sunny Golloway’s initiation to the rivalry.

Golloway says he is aware of the significance of the game, adding that, “I think we’re going to have the (big) crowd and electricity and it’s going to be a great learning experience for our young club. I’m looking forward to playing (them).”

No doubt it will be another exciting game in front of a packed house. Hopefully the Tigers can keep the streak going. If you’re in the area, come out and support the Orange and Blue. Auburn will start Sophomore right hander Justin Camp (0-1, 2.13) and Bama will counter with Freshman right hander Nick Eicholtz (0-0, 0.00 ERA). First pitch will be at 7 p.m.

Beat Bama!

Update:
Auburn fell to Bama 4-3 . The Tigers didn’t trail until the Tide scored the winning run in the ninth. With two outs, third baseman Connor Short’s throw on a Ben Moore grounder sailed over first baseman Keegan Thompson’s head. Mikey White scored from second base and Bama held on in the bottom of the ninth to win their first Cap Classic.

The Tigers will host Mercer this weekend in their final non conference series. First pitch will be at 6 p.m. CT. Friday.

Sunny Golloway: Genius or Crazy Man?

By Posted on: March 3rd, 2014 in Baseball 5 Comments »
Photo by Julie Bennett/al.com

Photo by Julia Bennett/al.com

New Auburn baseball coach Sunny Golloway seemed to win over the Auburn family last fall with a series of humorous videos that played on the Jumbotron during Tiger football games. Winning over his new team has not been so easy.

As AubTigerman reported last week, this is a squad that at least temporarily, is engulfed in turmoil. Following yesterday’s 12-5 win over Presbyterian, Golloway’s bunch sits at 6-5 overall.

Despite the slow start, Golloway reiterated last week his intentions to get this team to Omaha and the College World Series this season. With losses so far to Alabama A&M, East Tennessee St and Presbyterian, this is either an extreme case of coach speak or Galloway is insane.

There are some back in Oklahoma that would claim he’s the latter.

When he bolted to Auburn last year from Oklahoma, there was a flood of angry comments from current Oklahoma players and former Sooners alike. Most Auburn people at the time attributed it to sour grapes and gave it little thought.

Now a month into the season, similar comments are coming from Auburn players recently kicked off the team by the new coach.

In news that made headlines last week, three veteran players were released following a disastrous weekend of play, including senior Hunter Kelley, who shared his feelings afterwards with The Anniston Star.

“When I got in there (Golloway’s office),” Kelley said, “he just started off by saying, ‘Hunter, I don’t think you’ll be able to help this program this year. I just don’t think your attitude should be in this program.

“Me, of course, I was devastated. I didn’t know what he was talking about. It just kind of blew me away because, these are my brothers, and I’ve played ball all my life. I’ve never heard anybody tell me that.”

Cleaning house is nothing new in college athletics. We’ve seen it with Gus Malzahn and every coach before him. However, kicking three upper classman off the team following a weekend of bad play is rare, if not unprecedented in Auburn Athletics.

Golloway was quick to defend his decision.

“Players have to understand that we are just a part of something that is much greater than we are individually,” Golloway told AuburnTigers.com. “We are going to play for what is on the front of our jerseys and not on the back. Be proud of your name, but play for Auburn. Play the way we ask you to play.”

Success and controversy is nothing new to Golloway.

A winner of 40+ games in each of the last four seasons at Oklahoma, he appears to have burned more than a few bridges back in Norman. The most outspoken has been former Oklahoma All-American and former major league player Joe Simpson.

Speaking to The Oklahoman following Golloway’s departure last year, he said, “I’m so thrilled that he’s gone that they could hire a basset hound and it would be an improvement,” said Simpson, an Atlanta Braves broadcaster the past two decades.

“I haven’t had anything to do with the program since near the end of the Larry Cochell era. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it as long as Sunny Golloway was the head coach because I think he’s a sorry individual. I think he’s a bad guy. I want to thank Auburn University for taking him off our hands and getting him out of Norman.”

The question Auburn people must answer is what’s fact and what’s fiction. Eventually we’ll all know what kind of coach and more importantly, what kind of person Golloway is and whether he’s a fit for the University.

Athletic director Jay Jacobs strongly defended his new coach yesterday in a conversation with The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

“…the bottom line is what we had didn’t work,” said Jacobs. “I made the decision to change baseball coaches, so we’ve done that. The baseball coach that we had and the players that we had, both are a combination of the parts that didn’t work.

“So it’s Sunny’s job to make it work to get us back to Omaha, to winning SEC championships and playing in regionals and super regionals. Some people just aren’t meant for a certain system. That’s just how it is. Some students come to school here and they’re here for a few weeks and realize, ‘You know what? I shouldn’t have come here.

“…It’s just that what we’ve been doing in baseball hasn’t worked, so I’m 100 percent supportive of whatever Sunny thinks we need to do to get this baseball team to be competitive, because that’s what we owe our student-athletes. That’s what we owe that baseball team: A chance to win championships.”

It’s hard to argue with Jacobs thinking. There are two sides to every story and right now Golloway is doing it his way. Auburn knew what they were getting when they made the hire.

For now, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

At the end of the day, college athletics is a business. Auburn hired a baseball coach that wins – and he does it his way. If he duplicates the success he had at Oklahoma, all of this will be forgotten. If not, then it will continue to come up.

Right now, I’m betting on Sunny Golloway.

Sunny Golloway Means Business – Tigers headed to Omaha in first season

By Posted on: February 26th, 2014 in Baseball, Featured Article 17 Comments »
14272457-mmmain - Julie Bennett

                                          This guy means business. (photo: Julie Bennett, al.com)

New Auburn Baseball Coach Sunny Golloway went out on a limb after being hired to take over the Tiger program. He boldly declared Auburn would not only have a good season in his first year but would play for a national championship in Omaha. 

Yet before Tuesday’s win over Alabama A&M, his team was sitting at 3-4 including an embarrassing 9-3 loss to Alabama State a week ago. Auburn went 1-3 for the week, defeating Arkansas-Pine Bluff but loosing to Ala. State, California and East Tennessee State. Adding insult to injury, the Tigers only have six extra base hits through eight games with a team batting average of .208. The early season slide prompted some unusual steps from the first year skipper. 

As Golloway sees it some of his veteran players have not been happy with his decission to play six freshman ahead of 19 upper classmen. So in a move rarely if ever seen by coaches during the season… he talked with eight of those players Sunday, announcing afterwards that three of them – Senior outfielder Hunter Kelley, senior first baseman Patrick Savage, and junior pitcher Chase Williamson would no longer be on the team.

Kelley, who started 30 games last year, told the Anniston Star that he was devastated. He said the coach just told him he needed to quit the team.”I told him, I totally disagree with what you’re saying. I’ve had a good attitude all year. I’ve busted my ass all fall to be part of this team, to help this team.” When Kelley refused to quit as his teammates had, he was dismissed. Golloway says his actions were necessary to turn the Auburn program around.

He later hinted the three may not be the last veterans to see the door. He said he wants players that pull for whoever is in the line up and not just for them selves. “That’s why we’ve minimized our roster and why we will continue to minimize our roster until our attitude and effort are there. If the attitude and effort aren’t there, you aren’t going to be here.”

Tough words and even tougher actions from a first year coach but Golloway insist it’s what it will take to build a championship contending program. He said he can’t build that contender until all of his players are on the same page. 

The Tigers were definitely on the same page last night as Auburn improved to 4-4 after their 7-3 drubbing of Alabama A&M. The Coach said he could see a difference in his team already. “Several of the guys realized `I want to be here. I want to do whatever it takes and I want to win.’”

Will this action pay dividends for the end of the season? Will it help or hurt team chemistry? I don’t know but o
ne things for certain, his players have no doubt this morning that Golloway means business. And despite the rough start to the season, he says he still  means it when he says, “We are going to Omaha this year. There is no doubt in my mind.”

Thursday Ramblings.

By Posted on: February 20th, 2014 in Baseball, Basketball, Football 12 Comments »
Bleak Midwinter

We’re in the bleak midwinter.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody. A long offseason continues, but there is a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel. Snow and ice have given way to thunderstorms and short sleeves here in the Deep South. Auburn football players have begun the dreaded mat drills in their off-season workout regime. This means Spring Drills and A-Day are just around the corner!

     For me, this is a week for idle thinking, and I’ll share a few thoughts on Auburn-related items. First off, I guess I’ve got to weigh in on the “ten second hold-up” rule being proposed this spring by the NCAA Rules Committee. As we now know, this whole rule change is one being pushed by two dissatisfied, frightened SEC West coaches, and was not on the NCAA’s agenda. It turns out that Nick Saban invited himself to the the rules committee meeting, and was not a planned attendee. Bret Bielema claims to be representing the interests of American Football Coaches Association, but not a single other coach will admit to supporting Bielema. Hmmm…

     I don’t get it. The refs we have now can’t even tell if the game clock has run out, or needs one second put back on, without instant replay. They are now supposed to signal the ball, “ready for play,” but not really, for ten seconds? They are already holding up the ball when the offense substitutes, to allow the defense to follow suit. How much more time does the defense need? Offenses usually run a few shifts and motions before the snap, and probably a meer-cat to the sideline, anyway. I think it’s pretty rare for a team to snap it before ten seconds are up. Saban and Bielema have made themselves the poster children for “whiney,” and there’s no real benefit to them even if the absurd rule were to pass! I chuckled at the news this week that Saban was considering being involved in a Mercedes dealership in Birmingham. What, coaches? Lobbying for “American football,” and selling German cars? That’s rich! How many times did we watch those Saban “Ford Tough” commercials last fall? Let the buyer beware.

     Speaking of football, Auburn will start spring drills on March 18th. Checking the calendar, that’s a mere 26 days away! Can we wait that long? A-Day will be played at 2:00 PM Central Time on April 19th. Auburn’s A-Day this year will be televised on ESPN. Here’s hoping the Tigers can entertain another massive crowd like last year, with the nation watching!

     Even though Auburn’s once again mired with a losing SEC basketball record at 4-9, I do have to give embattled head coach Tony Barbee some credit. His guys have usually played hard, if not well. I finally got a chance to watch a complete game last Saturday against Mississippi State, and I’ve seen the highlights of last night’s close loss to number two Florida. The biggest negative about Barbee’s style is that his players seem to be continually daring the refs to call fouls. The MSU game was an absolute free-throw fest last Saturday. As the home team, Auburn got a few more calls, and pulled out a ten point victory.

     Against Florida, Barbee was whining about Auburn allowing 12 offensive rebounds. Coach, when you lob up as many long range shots as Auburn does, offensive rebounds will happen. That ball can kick out to anywhere when you miss a three point shot. What was painful about the loss to Florida was that Auburn had the game tied at 66 with 20 seconds left, and could have forced Florida to try to make a shot to win. It wasn’t a great night for Florida shooters, who only hit 40 percent from the floor. Instead, Auburn immediately was called for a blatant grab right in front of the ref, and sent the Gators to the free throw line. Following the successful Florida free throws, Auburn could not inbound the ball because all four guys on the floor took off, and there was no one to throw the ball inbounds to. Coaching, folks. Coaching. Twenty four games into the season, and Auburn can’t even inbound the ball with the game on the line.

     I think it’s going to be another long baseball season at Auburn, also. Auburn began their home season yesterday by being shelled by FCS opponent Alabama State, 9-3. ASU is actually a pretty good FCS team, and they played error-free ball. Not so for the Tigers. The game got away on two errors in the 8th, while the Hornets were hitting balls to the wall. What’s ominous is that these pitchers are going to be expected to get SEC batters out. Worse is that the Tiger team batting average stands at a meager .217 for the season. It’s going to be a battle to stay out of last place. About the only thing going for the Tigers is that this is head coach Sunny Galloway’s first year. But coach, talking trash about playing in Omaha while giving up 9 runs to Alabama State just makes you look bad. Man, the game has changed. I remember college baseball for the “clonk” of aluminum bats, and run totals in the teens for both teams, not .217 batting averages!

     On a lighter note, I had a chuckle yesterday evening when I read this piece from our old friend Jerry Hinnen, formerly of the Joe Cribbs Carwash and the War Eagle Reader. Apparently Oklahoma’s compliance department turned in a some secondary violations for three players for being provided “pasta in excess of the permissible amount allowed.” The players each were required to cough up $3.83 to be reinstated. There’s a “pasta allowance” in the NCAA rules? Who knew?

Auburn Wins Most Important Game – Gives Sunny Golloway 1st Victory

By Posted on: February 15th, 2014 in Baseball, Featured Article 10 Comments »
Photo by Julie Bennett/al.com

                                     Sunny Golloway won his debut game at Auburn. (photo:Julie Bennett, al.com)

Just days after schools and businesses were closed in Auburn, Ala. for snow and ice, the Auburn Tigers opened their 2014 baseball season Friday in the Snow Bird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla. The Tigers made new Coach Sunny Golloway‘s debut a happy one with a 4-0 shutout of Indiana State.

The victory came behind the pitching of Senior starter Dillon Ortman and closer RS Sophomore Justin Camp. The two combined to throw nine scoreless innings.

The Tigers have a new look for 2014. The new coach started five freshman in the opener. And Golloway has brought in the west coast style of ball of the hit and run, bunting, and putting a lot of pressure on the defense.

It has been a successful formula for the former Sooner coach, who in nine seasons in Norman, took his team to 8 NCAA Regionals, 4 Super Regionals (hosting 3)  and one College World Series.

The freshman Tigers provided five of Auburn’s seven hits with Damon Haecker getting it started by driving in Jordan Ebert on a two-out single in the second inning. Then Blake Austin hit a two out single in the sixth to drive home Keegan Thompson and Damek Tomscha. Finally J.J. Shaffer scored an insurance run in the seventh on a sacrifice bunt by Thompson.

“I thought we played the way we needed to play,” said Golloway “We pitched and we played defense, and that’s what we’ve been preaching to our guys.”

Golloway said he told his team before the game, “The most important game we’re going to play is this first game. We’ve got to get some confidence and learn how to win.”

Well the Tigers have won that most important game. Now it’s one down and 56 to go.

Auburn continues in the Snowbird Classic today as they face Ohio State at 11 a.m. CT in Port Charlotte. Senior Michael O’Neal will take the mound for Auburn.

Go Tigers beat the Buckeyes!