Auburn baseball opens fall training today

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Auburn baseball opens fall practice today at Plainsman Park, beginning the process of integrating the No. 6 recruiting class in the nation with a team that just completed its third trip to Omaha in the past four seasons. The Tigers set a record eight selections in the 2022 MLB Draft, so there’s plenty of game time available on head coach Butch Thompson’s squad.

(new players shown in italics, returning starters in bold)

SENSORS

Hall: Nate LaRue, senior

Depth: Ike Irish, Freshman; Carter Wright, Jr. Ryan Dyal, junior redshirt, Ben Schorr, second redshirt

Auburn is firing wide receiver Nate LaRue, who stepped into the starting role midseason and turned down overtures from MLB teams to return to Auburn for his senior season. Batting .211/.272/.382 on the season, LaRue became famous for his right-arm howitzer behind the plate, earning him the nickname “LaRue laserafter catching 12 base steal attempts in 2022. Behind him is top 100 rookie Ike Irish, considered one of the best defensive receivers in the 2022 prep class with good athleticism and a smooth left swing. He will be a candidate for midweek starts and DH AB on the weekend Transfer Carter Wright is considered a solid defender behind the plate Ryan Dyal has return experience at both receiver and left field, but his arm is considered a handicap by some behind the plate.

INTERIOR

Hall: Cole Foster, Jr.

Competition/depth: Caden Green, Jr.; Brody Moss, sophomore; Brody Wortham, Graduate; freshman Gavin Miller; Cam Hill, Jr.; Redshirt sophomore Cooper McMurray; Wesley Helms; freshman in a red shirt; Ty Maudlin, junior; Rom Kellis, freshman; Bryson Ware, senior

Auburn is only returning hitter Cole Foster, who is expected to move from 2B to SS, from last year’s team – the other three infielders were all drafted by MLB teams (1B Sonny DiChiara, Los Angeles Angels – Round 5; 3B Blake Rambusch, Seattle Mariners – Round 15; SS Brody Moore – St. Louis Cardinals, Round 17). Foster is expected to move to SS and there will be battles to decide who surrounds him around the diamond: McMurray, a 6’3 258lb transfer from Kansas, appears to fill Auburn’s Sonny DiChiara role as a starting player towering goal with tons of power – not sure if he has a song as beautiful as “Che La Luna” – with Brody Wortham (West Georgia) challenging for 1st or 2nd. Competing with Wortham will be Caden Green (Seminole State), a 3rd team JuCo All-American in 2022 who is considered by evaluators to be a solid defenseman with a good right-handed swing. Outfielder Bryson Ware is also in the mix at 3B, with experience in the hot corner earlier in his career, as is newcomer Ty Maudlin (Snead State). Freshman Gavin Miller is also a candidate for early playing time, as he is a good athlete with projectable power.

OUTSIDE FIELD

Starters: Kason Howell, fifth year; Bobby Pierce, senior

Competition/depth: Freshman Chris Stanfield; Justin Kirby, graduate; Josh Hall, senior redshirt; sophomore Mike Bello; Freshman Alex Wade; Bryson Ware, senior

Kason Howell returns for a fifth year as Auburn’s center back, looking to mount his horse and extend his streak of 113 straight starts at center. Flanking him will be Bobby Pierce, senior, who recovered from both knee surgeries to make 38 starts for Auburn in 2022 and was second on the team in both homers (10) and slugging (.562), with a one arm cannon to boot. Third place is the most important positional battle in the fall ball, between incoming transfer Justin Kirby (Kent State) and vaunted freshman sensation Chris Stanfield, the Top 100 rookie who rejected overtures from the MLB to come to Auburn. Kirby played mostly right field at Kent State, while Stanfield’s blistering speed allows him to be a more defender anywhere in the outfield and has strong bat-to-ball skills, but needs to add some power to his 6’1 frame. Look for veteran Kirby to get the edge on this competition. Hall, who suffered a season-ending injury against LSU, and Bello bring experience to the competition, having started 6 and 27 games respectively in 2022. Bryson Ware, primarily a defensive specialist, is a depth option at the times here and at third base, if necessary.

LAUNCH

Spin: Joseph González, junior; Tommy Sheehan; sixth year

Competition/Depth – Left Handed Throwers: freshman Zach Crotchfelt; Freshman Will Turner; Tanner Bauman, junior; freshman Jackson Hilton; Tommy Vail, sixth grade; Freshman Drew Nelson; Konner Copeland, senior

Competition/Depth – Right-Handed Pitchers: Redshirt freshman Trevor Horne; Freshman Caleb Pittman; Parker Carlson, sophomore; freshman Elliott Bray; Christian Herberholz, junior red shirt; Carson Swilling, junior; sophomore Will Cannon; Ben Bosse, sophomore; John Armstrong, sophomore; Chase Isbell, senior; Freshman Ryan Olson; Chase Allsup, second year; Freshman Cameron Keshock; Jordan Armstrong, fifth year; HFreshman Ayden Murphy

Auburn sent three of its top four starters to MLB after the season, with Mason Barnett (Kansas City Royals, Round 3), Trace Bright (Baltimore Orioles, Round 5) and Hayden Mullins (Boston Red Sox, Round 12) all getting their name called. Auburn’s top two relievers, Blake Burkhalter (Atlanta Braves, Round 2 – Compensatory) and Carson Skipper (Colorado Rockies, Round 11) were also selected. To recharge the rotation, Auburn’s homecoming Notre Dame transfers Tommy Sheehan for a 2nd year on the plains and transfer gold mining, along with newcomers Tanner Bauman (St. John’s River State) and Christian Herberholz (Southern Union) competing with in-house options Jordan Armstrong, Konner Copeland and others for the 3rd starter role and midweek job.

Tommy Vail (TCU), a former teammate of Sheehan’s at Notre Dame and Will Cannon (NW Florida State) are looking to join a changing bullpen after losing their top two options in Burkhalter and Skipper. Chase Isbell, Chase Allsup and John Armstrong all appear to be key pitchers in the back end of the rotation, with Isbell being the early favorite for the closing role as we enter fall camp.

Something to watch: Thompson likes to give first-year pitchers chances early, with John Armstrong, Garrett Wade and Cade Granzow all getting first innings in the first action of the week 2022 at the State Farm College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, TX – the fall ball is where you earn those opportunities.


Auburn baseball begins fall training Wednesday, Sept. 22 at Plainsman Park. Auburn will play two scrimmages, open and free to the public, against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, October 15 and against Alabama on Friday, October 28.

Stay tuned to Auburn Daily for comprehensive Auburn baseball coverage leading up to fall training as we prepare for the 2023 season!

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