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Thompson talks about his team after fall practices.

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Auburn's Butch Thompson talks about his team after fall practices.

AUBURN, Alabama—Following the losses of shortstop Cole Foster, third baseman Bryson Ware, catcher Nate LaRue and center fielder Kason Howell, coach Butch Thompson knew this fall was going to be an important one for his team heading towards the 2024 season. Going out and adding several key transfers to go along with a strong signing class and some key returners, the Auburn baseball Tigers hit the practice field this fall with some business to take care of.

Growing from an early trip to Tuscaloosa, the Tigers beat Louisiana Tech in a pair of games two weeks ago before finishing things off with their own world series that wrapped up on Tuesday. Seeing improvement across the board, Thompson said shoring up some of those questions was probably the biggest news of the fall for his team.

“It has been a great group,” Thompson said. “They have done well on the field. They have done well with 20+ new guys getting used to one another. We grew as a ballclub. That was the biggest challenge off of our first barometer of playing in Tuscaloosa. Could we get to the fastball? Could we have at-bats? We grew as we went through it.

“What I talked about first was shortstop, third base and catcher and how we would fill that. You feel like Cooper Weiss, Deric Fabian, Javon Hernandez and even a Caden Green coming back, those four guys give you some type of rotation at second, short and third. All three catchers (Ike Irish, Carter Wright, Cale Stricklin) did good. We started playing Ike a little bit in right field. He did a good job. I’m super excited about Stricklin, the true freshman. Wright is a veteran and has been in the program. I think all three guys could catch for us.”

With the infield coming together because of the transfers and new additions, Auburn got some huge news late in the fall with the return of first baseman Cooper McMurray to the lineup in a designated hitter role. Limited to at-bats after having some cleanup work done on his knee, McMurray homered twice during the world series and should give the Tigers some punch at the plate once again this season.

In the outfield, returning starter Bobby Peirce homered against Louisiana Tech and twice more in the world series as he continues to show more pop at the plate. Chris Stanfield is back and has shifted to the center field spot while Jacksonville State transfer Mason Maners has played well as the third starter most days. True freshmen Cole Edwards and Cade Belyeu have both swung the bat well and could push for playing time in the outfield this coming season.

With veterans such as Chase Allsup, Tanner Bauman, John Armstrong and Will Cannon back along with talented sophomores like Zach Crotchfelt, Hayden Murphy and Drew Nelson, there are plenty of options on the mound for the Tigers heading into the season. With Joseph Gonzalez back, but ramping up slowly to get prepared for the season, it opened up the door for some newcomers to step up and that’s exactly what happened. One of the top pitchers of the fall was true freshman Cam Tilly

“We have 80 percent of our innings back, so there are some guys we can lean on and trust,” Thompson said. “I can’t tell you how excited I am about some of our new arms. I don’t have to make a long list, but when you say Cam Tilly and Dylan Watts, two new right-handers to start with. At least I feel like we’re a little more left-handed and have some guys to go with a Bauman, who is proven.”

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On 11/17/2023 at 9:02 AM, aubiefifty said:

We have 80 percent of our innings back, so there are some guys we can lean on and trust,”

This is key. If Gonzalez is 100%, not only will he win a lot of Friday games for us, he will save a lot of mileage on the bullpen by throwing strikes and keeping pitch counts low. Excited to watch this team in the spring. 

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8 hours ago, Gowebb11 said:

 If Gonzalez is 100%

No doubt, we need him to be 100%.   The young man had a lot of people in his ear last year.   The shoulder surgery was nothing major.   Hope it gives him the confidence he needs to be strong this year.


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