What Butch Thompson said ahead of Auburn baseball's Regional game against Penn

Justin Hokansonby:Justin Hokanson06/01/23


AUBURN — The No. 13 overall national seed Auburn baseball team wrapped up Regional practice on Thursday morning inside Plainsman Park. The Auburn Regional gets underway on Friday afternoon as 2-seed Southern Miss and 3-seed Samford play. The Tigers play 4-seed Penn on Friday evening at 6 p.m. CT. Head coach Butch Thompson spoke to the media ahead of Auburn’s second-straight Regional hosting opportunity.

“Similar to last year. We were able to take a day off, an abbreviated template. Started getting back together int hew eight room, some movements, some squad days where we played against each other for two days. The day after the Memorial Day we did a morning session and then we went to the lake to stay together, a two-a-day concept. Came back and practiced on Monday, then last night (Wednesday) we practiced at 6 pm which is game time to get used to everything. We’ve finished our work for the Regional — they have some time for the rest of the day and tomorrow to get ready. It’s a similar template that’s worked pretty good for us the last few years.”

What type of team is Penn?

“Patient hitters. We’re going to see someone that reminds us of Joseph Gonzalez for our fans to know that’s the type of pitcher that we’ll see. We worked the machine a little bit to create some sink and get lined up with that pitch. This is probably 38 percent sinker deal like Joseph, more off-speed stuff. More sliders, more changeups, very successful starting pitcher. They’ve won eight games in a row, won their deal, Southern Miss won their deal, Samford won their deal. This is as tough a field as we had last year. Sometimes casual fans can’t get past big names. We had Florida State and UCLA last year, that branded name, but these are good baseball teams.

“They have won eight in a row, patient hitters, more right handed. The other compliment I can give to Penn is after this season, five of their graduating seniors will come play at Texas A&M, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Virginia for example. Pretty good roster that has our respect. We feel like we’re prepared, we’re a confident ballclub. All our focus is on Penn. They are what stands in our way to advance in this tournament.

“They’ll try to link up. They’re trying to pass it to the next guys, put pitches into you. It’s not a track meet. It’s not everything, they’re just trying to have at bats, put pitches into pitchers, have veteran at bats. They’re on a hot streak and a lot of the people we gathered information from thought it was a Power Five pitching staff.”

What goes into Bryson Ware’s fantastic season, setting the Auburn single-season record in home runs?

“When he and Bobby Peirce came in, the balls were going everywhere from a batting practice and practice standpoint. Bryson was so athletic, he came as a junior college shortstop. He goes to the outfield, then comes back and plays third. His character and stuff, you never want to stop believing. Players are allowed to get better. As long as someone is a great teammate, always getting good grades and on time, they are talented, you never give up on it. Bryson has never given up on himself. It merged up. His strike zone has gotten smaller. Players are allowed to get better and he never quit on himself.

“I remember Foster sat here. I’m proud of him, too. Cole Foster sat here behind Ryan Bliss and learned how to play short. He came in as a million-dollar baby and sat right there and learned the position, and now he’s being rewarded for it. This day and time, these are a couple of good examples to remind the world, a young baseball player that may be anywhere, that absolutely this journey can be rewarding by staying engaged and get better. Bryson has good comfort. His confidence is at an all-time high. Everything merged at the right time.”

Talk about Auburn’s recent Regional success…

“We’ve won nine regional games in a row. There’s a lot of programs around the country that would have liked to done that the last three regionals. We’re telling them they are prepared. We should be one of the toughest, mentally toughest teams in the country because of what we do. We think we do a couple of things along the way consistently since August that, yep, you better be mentally tough to lineup with us. That’s a rock for us.

“If I knew exactly what it was, but I’d rather put that on the line and keep playing. This is a new team and their opportunity. We’re just trying to get them to tomorrow. Maybe some leadership, maybe some things, I wish I knew because I’d apply that to the SEC Tournament. We’d do better in the SEC Tournament if there was some drawn-out, real answer. We’ve played well at this stage. They have to go make their own. I’m glad to throw all that back out on the line.”

What makes this Kason Howell’s team?

“I sensed that three weeks ago. I said the Kason Howell Effect or something like that. It goes back to when you’re 5-10 and Kason is like, ‘I’ve been here before. I’ve done this before.’ I kicked thee ant hill when we were struggling and that put us in a lot of different directions. We would up at that first half coming out of Tuscaloosa at 5-10 and I think everybody was wondering. I think that’s where Kason Howell circled the wagons, got his team and pulled them together. He said, ‘this is about to get different.’

“Probably as a single person, he’s had the biggest impact on the second half and where this team is today hosting a Regional. I give him a ton of credit. The Kason Howell Effect of this ballclub is real. The clubhouse is theirs. I don’t want the coaches dominating the clubhouse. That’s for the players and the leadership entrusted with that. I think they’ve done a great job with that clubhouse bringing all that together. Kason, Bobby, LaRue, Bryson, all these guys are good leaders and contributors. They are servant leaders and let Kason be out front.”

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