For Auburn's Butch Thompson, the past few days have been “neat.”
Following a 15-7 win over NC State and a three-game stretch where Auburn outscored its opponents 40-12, Thompson’s lineup travels to Gainesville to take on top-seed Florida in the NCAA Super Regional.
Auburn’s Casey Mize will get the start against Florida’s Brady Singer. Both team’s aces were both selected in Monday’s Major League Baseball draft at No. 1 and No. 18 overall, respectively.
Thompson expects Mize and company to continue with confidence on the road.
“This is a no regret time of the year, and we’re going to start with the No. 1 pick in the [Major League Baseball] draft,” Thompson said.
Auburn managed to steal one game against the top-ranked Gators during a three-game regular-season series, but lost the matchup between Mize and Singer, 3-1.
“We think, one or two pitches, that three-to-one ballgame is a bit different,” Thompson said.
With a vision set at his hiring in 2015, Thompson said that the leadership of his team has followed through and allowed confidence at the plate.
The head coach added that it was important having eight seniors who participated in the Tallahassee regional the previous postseason.
“All these leadership qualities that I’ve been waiting to come out I’m starting to see right before my eyes, and I’m proud of this group,” he said.
Now motioning his gaze toward the program’s second Super Regional and first since 1999, Auburn’s confidence and leadership tandem move into Gainesville for what Mize calls “just another SEC weekend.”
Mize added that Auburn is motivated by not being selected as a host for a Regional.
“We performed like we were motivated,” Mize said. “We’d win a game and be like ‘OK, cool,’ and move on.”
The draft’s top pick finished the season with the second-most strikeouts this season with 151 and led Auburn with 10 wins, including the ninth no-hitter in program history.
The future Detroit Tiger said that “keeping the ball in the yard” would be the deciding factor against the Gators, while Auburn would focus on “[producing] the big inning” to get ahead.
Mize said that he will enjoy competing against his first-round counterpart Singer.
“He’s very talented, and you always enjoy competing against competitors,” Mize said.
Though the team fell in the SEC Tournament, Will Holland said Auburn is prepared for top-tier talent.
“We’re definitely in a groove offensively and defensively,” he said. “I think we’re set up as good as we could be.”
Opposite the pitcher’s mound, Jay Estes has continued to swing with ease. Estes led Auburn with a .338 batting average and is currently riding an eight-game hitting streak.
In addition, Estes has hits in 24 of the last 26 games and has 17 games of two or more hits during that span.
Holland said that Estes, a Crawfordville, Florida, native, is prepared to take down a home-state program.
Estes' offensive consistency will be paired with Josh Anthony’s Regional MVP performance, where Anthony finished batting 9-for-13 (.692) for seven RBI and three doubles adding to six runs and a home run.
Goodmorning Gainesville ☀️— Joshua (@mlbJAye) June 8, 2018
Thompson, who finished as a runner-up at the College World Series in 2013 with Mississippi State, said that he is willing to sacrifice to have his players experience a championship atmosphere.
And that starts with defeating top-seeded Florida in Gainesville on Saturday.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes to have them experience [Omaha],” Thompson said. “We’re trying to aim as high as we can.”