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Baseball newcomers look to make their mark this fall

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Infield newcomers look to make their mark this fall for Auburn baseball

Jason Caldwell
4–5 minutes

AUBURN, Alabama—With depth and talent returning on the mound along with position players such as Bobby Peirce, Cooper McMurray, Chris Stanfield, Ike Irish and others, the Auburn baseball Tigers have some strong pieces to build around for the 2024 season, but have some huge holes to fill because of the losses of shortstop Cole Foster, third baseman Bryson Ware and catcher Nate LaRue.

Beginning fall practices on Monday with the first fall intrasquad scrimmage coming up on Thursday, coach Butch Thompson said the biggest issue for this team is going to be finding the three replacements for those three spots.

“The biggest challenge for us, it looks like and things will probably change once we start playing, but Cole Foster, Bryson Ware and Nate LaRue,” Thompson said. “It’s the left side of the infield and finding which catcher or two catchers, who is really going to catch these guys and create a good pitching staff.

“We’re bullish on the mound thinking there’s enough pieces. Hopefully we can keep developing. The team is made in the fall. You really hope you can get some things worked out.”

The good news for Thompson and his coaching staff is that there are some quality options at all three positions thanks to a combination of returning players, true freshmen, and transfers. On the infield, Auburn brought in four players that are all going to push for playing time, Thompson said.

“You take a Derec Fabian and a Cooper Weiss, two veterans,” Thompson said. “Javon Hernandez makes it three veterans. Then you have an exciting player like Eric Guevara. I don’t want to pump him up too much, but he gives you that (Ryan) Bliss feel when he came on campus. It’s like ‘this guy might be ready to play for us now.’ He checks a lot of boxes and has really looked good. The players love him.”

A grad transfer from Miami (Ohio) after starting his career at Coastal Carolina, Weiss is a 5-11, 201 senior that is coming off a huge year for the Redhawks a season ago when he batted .303 with 12 home runs and 15 doubles while also winning the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. He’ll battle for the starting shortstop job along with Fabian and others.

The younger brother of former Florida standout Judd Fabian, Derec Fabian played the last two seasons with the Gators and had six home runs as a part-time starter. At 6-3, Fabian has a ton of power and also has the ability to play multiple positions.

One of two Jacksonville State transfers on the Auburn roster, the 5-7 Hernandez is a powerful player that brings experience to the second base position for the Tigers. Transferring to JSU from UConn-Avery Point, Hernandez led the ASUN with a .397 average last season and had seven home runs, three triples and 49 runs batted in. He’ll battle at the position along with Fabian and returners Caden Green and Brody Moss.

The fourth newcomer is Guevara. A native of Panama that played his high school baseball in Georgia, the true freshman is listed at a powerful 5-11, 204 and has shown the ability to play multiple spots as well this fall. His first opportunity may come at third base where he’s working with junior college transfer Kaleb Freeman.

With McMurray out for the fall after having some cleanup work done on his knee, sophomore Gavin Miller is spending much of his time at first base along with UAB transfer Christian Hall.

Behind the plate, Irish returns and is a full-time catcher this fall along with second-year player Carter Wright. Auburn also brought in high school catcher Cale Stricklin, who has been impressive early in his first fall practices.

Auburn will scrimmage on Thursday afternoon at Plainsman Park and again this weekend. They’ll scrimmage once more next week before heading to Tuscaloosa next Friday night to face Alabama in a fall scrimmage game.

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