Auburn's 2017 baseball season came to an end Monday night at the hands of Florida State in the Tallahassee Regional. It was a season that began with just the hope of making it to Hoover and into a Regional. At one point, there were serious thoughts of winning the SEC regular season title and hosting a Regional. Then, at the end, there were slight doubts of even making it in. Auburn was listed as one of the "Last Four In" when the field was announced.
At the start of the year, Auburn was predicted to finish in a tie for the cellar in the SEC with Alabama. While the Tide lived up to expectations - firing their new coach after one year and turning to an Auburn assistant to be their HC - Auburn far exceeded theirs.
It was a season of themes. Mid-week struggles plagued the Tigers at times. It seemed like Auburn always struggled against pitchers with great ball movement and hit the ever living daylights out of pitchers who just threw it straight and hard. For the longest time, Auburn couldn't win a Saturday SEC game after the opening sweep of Florida. There were injuries or issues with key players throughout the year, though only the injury to Jarvis at the end can really be pointed to as having a possible affect on the play on the field. It was amazing how well the team performed even when one of the ace pitchers was out.
There were extreme highs and extreme lows. Sweeping Florida to open SEC play was one of the most memorable things to happen. Conor Davis' walk-off blast against South Carolina to clinch a series without Keegan Thompson in the rotation was another. Being swept - at home, no less - by Alabama was the lowest of the low.
It was a season of newcomers. Auburn had to replace a ton of offensive production from the 2016 squad. Luke Jarvis and Jonah Todd stepped in from the transfer circuit and provided a huge boost. Conor Davis and Will Holland were bright spots as freshmen. Josh Anthony flashed a glove better than almost anyone else on the field even though he didn't live up to the hitting hype early on. By the end of the season, he was starting to find his way against big-time collegiate pitchers. On the mound, Davis Daniel stepped in as a Sunday starter as a freshman. Numerous relievers were freshmen, too. The pitching staff is very young and got a lot of experience.
Through it all, there was a lot of fun to be had. There was a lot of promise shown for the future. Every player on this team gave their all for Auburn. The seniors weren't recruited by Butch Thompson, but they gave their all for him and this team. Their heart felt messages on Twitter after Monday night's loss showed just how much the team and the school meant to them.
I can look back and honestly say I left everything I had on that mound in Tallahassee. Forever grateful to be an Auburn Tiger! WDE— Cole Lipscomb (@colelipscomb6) June 6, 2017
For 22 years the Lord has allowed me to play ball! Thank you Auburn for letting me live my dream! War Eagle forever!— JJ Shaffer (@jjshaff15) June 6, 2017
And, of course, the future looks pretty good, too.
Tip of the cap to one heck of a year. This was the best team I've ever been apart of and I'll never forget the memories made this season. pic.twitter.com/KiCZFB53og— Casey Mize (@caseymize04) June 6, 2017
There are still questions to be answered before we really begin preparing for the 2018 season. Who will turn pro? It's almost a sure thing that Keegan Thompson will go pro. He has his undergrad degree in hand and should strike while the iron is hot and before any further possible arm injuries. Will Josh Anthony or any of the JUCO guys who are now eligible leave? Jonah Todd certainly had a season (far more worthy than just 2nd team All-SEC) that shows he's ready to make a run at The Show. These are things we'll learn the answer to in the next couple of days and weeks.
After years of wondering what direction Auburn baseball was headed in, it's finally safe to say it's definitely heading up. Next year's new crop of Tigers are some of the most talented we've ever seen. This year's squad will always have a special place as one of the key building blocks of what is sure to be a bright future.
I'll leave you with the words of a man who loves Auburn Baseball more than anyone I've ever met. Our own Kevin Ives (@AUPPL) had this to say after the end to Monday night's game:
War Eagle. Always!