*Courtesy Auburn Media Relations*
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - Freshman Keegan Thompson lived up to the hype Sunday in his first start on the mound for Auburn's baseball team.
Thompson arrived at Auburn from Cullman last fall as one of the nation's top freshman prospects. Sunday, he showed why, leading Auburn to a 7-3 victory over UConn in the Snowbird Classic.
In his first collegiate start on the mound, Thompson took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He went 5 2/3 innings, giving up two hits, one run and striking out nine to get the win. For good measure playing first base with one on and one out in the bottom of the ninth, he made nifty pick on a hard-hit grounder, stepped on first and threw out the runner at second to end the game.
"It felt good," Thompson said. "It's been a while. I feel like it's been way too long. I threw some good strikes, got some guys to make contact with the ball and the defense played well. It felt good."
Thompson played first base the first two days of the tournament. He was the designated hitter after he left the mound Sunday, then moved to first base.
"He is special," first-year Auburn coach Sonny Golloway said. ... "It's old school baseball. That's about as old school as you can get. I like that. It's baseball. The rules are in place for a reason, and you might as well utilize them."
Auburn, coming back from a disappointing 1-0 loss to Ohio State on Saturday, took command with a four-run third inning. Damek Tomscha and Blake Austin had run-scoring singles, Daniel Robert drove in a run on a fielder's choice and Jordan Ebert put down a squeeze to drive home another run.
Tomscha had a two-run single in the sixth and Dan Glevenyak had a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
"We let some opportunities get away, but it's early in the season," Golloway said. "I thought our guys did a good job. We kind of stepped on the gas trying to steal some bases and do some things to give our guys more opportunities. That worked out. You just have to put the ball in play sometimes. That's what we were able to do."
Auburn, a 4-0 winner over Indiana State on Friday night, headed home with a 2-1 record going into Wednesday night's home opener against Alabama State. In the Tiger Classic at Plainsman Park next weekend, Auburn will play Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Friday, California on Saturday and East Tennessee State on Sunday.
"We won the series, and that's what we want to be about," Golloway said. "I told the guys you're never going to hear the word sweep out of me. It's about winning the series. There are 14 series opportunities in the course of the season. We are one-for-one so far."
Centerfielder Ryan Tella returned to the lineup after being suspended for the first two games. He was 2-for-4 and scored two runs.
"It was a lot of fun," Tella said. "I don't ever want to do that again. It was good to be between the lines with the guys I've played with for a while. It was just a joy to be out there again."
Tomscha and Glevenyak each had two of Auburn's nine hits. On the mound, Reid Carter gave up two hits and an unearned run in 1 1/3 innings. Daniel Koger gave up a hit and a run in 2/3 of an inning. Closer Terrance Dedrick gave up one hit in pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
UConn lost for the third consecutive time. The Huskies committed five errors and their pitchers walked six batters and hit one.