2023 College Top 25 Preview: No. 22 Auburn
Last season: 43-22 (16-13 in SEC), reached CWS
Final ranking: No. 6
Coach (record at school): Butch Thompson (222-164, six seasons)
The good news: Since taking over a program that hadn’t won a regional in the 21st century, Thompson has now led Auburn to the CWS in two of the last three seasons and won a regional in three of the last four. The Tigers completed an impressive turnaround in 2022 to finish the season in Omaha, after reshaping the roster through the transfer portal. They’ll have more continuity this season, welcoming back veterans in the lineup such as catcher Nate LaRue, shortstop Cole Foster and outfielders Kason Howell and Bobby Peirce. On the mound, righthander Joseph Gonzalez is back after spending the summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. The Tigers’ recruiting class this fall ranked No. 6, giving them an influx of young talent.
The bad news: Auburn does have a lot of turnover to account for from its Omaha team. That starts with slugger Sonny DiChiara, who was named co-SEC player of the year after transferring from Samford and hitting 22 home runs. The Tigers had eight players drafted and signed from last year’s team, leaving them with a new-look infield and some questions behind Gonzalez on the mound. Replacing DiChiara’s power will be important, as he accounted for nearly a third of the team’s 74 home runs. To that end, look for transfer Justin Kirby (Kent State) and freshman Ike Irish to make an impact, but the Tigers will also just have to find different ways of scoring runs this season. On the mound, Auburn has a new pitching coach following Tim Hudson stepping away from the program. Daron Schoenrock, who spent 18 years as the head coach at Memphis, takes over the pitching staff. Sophomore Chase Allsup is ready to step into a bigger role and if he can become a solid No. 2 behind Gonzalez, the Tigers will be in good shape on the mound, especially thanks to some exciting freshmen joining the staff.
Player to know: Joseph Gonzalez, RHP.
Gonzalez was Auburn’s most consistent starter last season and went 7-4, 3.22 with 54 strikeouts and 15 walks in 78.1 innings. Listed at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he doesn’t have an overpowering fastball—it sits in the low 90s—but he commands it well and pairs it with a good changeup. His pitchability, experience and solid all-around stuff have him ready to lead the rotation as a junior.
Path to Omaha: Auburn again has a very deep pitching staff —last year the Tigers used 22 pitchers—and that can be a strength for the team, even after losing three pitchers in the top five rounds. Their lineup should run deeper this season, though accounting for DiChiara’s absence is significant. Auburn brought in a group of newcomers that can do a good job of filling in most of their needs and they have a solid group of veterans returning. If those veterans—Foster, Howell, LaRue, Peirce and Bryson Ware—are able to make for a strong foundation, then along with the newcomers, the Tigers have the makings of an exciting all-around team.
Four Of A Kind? Examining The Candidates For The No. 1 Pick In the 2023 Draft
Just how good is this fearsome foursome? How much separation is there between them and how do the players compare and contrast with one another?
|2B||Caden Green||Jr.||Transfer—Seminole State (Okla.) JC|
|OF||Justin Kirby||R-Sr.||Transfer—Kent State|
|DH||Ike Irish||Fr.||HS—West Bloomfield, Mich.|