Despite the offensive output it was pitching that was the story of the game for the Tigers as true freshmen Cliff Mullins and Clarence Nicely combined to pitch eight innings in the victory. Mullins was outstanding in his first postseason start, giving up just two hits in five innings before giving way to Nicely who pitched until the ninth. Sophomore Grant Cardwell pitched the ninth. Slater said that getting a good game out of his freshmen was a key if Auburn was to have a chance against Florida State later on Sunday.
"Cliff did a tremendous job," Slater said. "He came out there and commanded the strike zone. His change-up worked very well today. His breaking ball was good. He threw his fastball to spots. He commanded three pitches and did a nice job. He let his defense work. Cliff did a nice job."
At the plate second baseman Tyler Johnstone led the way with four hits while Clete Thomas added three extra-base hits in the victory. Auburn also added three home runs, two from the most unlikely of bats. Slater said he was pleased with the offensive production in the game as the Tigers dealt with playing offense without Karl Amonite.
"I thought our guys came out and had a good approach today at the plate," Slater said. "It was good to see us put some runs on the board and then continue to extend the lead. It enabled us not to have to use Nix (Michael Nix) and not to have to use Madden (John Madden) so that those guys would be ready for tonight."
Tyler Johnstone and Adam Stacey come off the field after a solid inning of defense for the Tigers.
The Tigers jumped on the Cadets early with a solid first inning at the plate. Without Amonite Auburn needed production from everyone in the order and that was the case beginning in the first. Leading off Johnstone singled and moved to third on a double by Clete Thomas down the left field line. Following a Josh Bell groundout that scored Johnstone, Thomas stole third base to get into prime scoring position. It didn't help immediately as Jeff Boutwell struck out, but Russell Dixon's sharp grounder to first couldn't be handled and then the throw from the second baseman was high. The double error allowed Thomas to score Auburn's second run and get Mullins a lead to play with.
Auburn continued its offensive outburst in the second inning as red-hot Bruce Edwards singled to right to get the inning started. One out later Derek Sain hit a ground ball that shortstop Kyle Scogin booted. The play allowed both runners to be safe and set the table for the top of the Tiger order. That meant Johnstone and he came through with a single to right field that scored Edwards. Following a Thomas groundout Bell delivered with a two-run single that made it 5-0 Auburn after just two innings.
With Mullins cruising on the mound the offense went back to work in the fifth and effectively put the game away. With two outs and nobody on Josh Donaldson doubled to center field to bring Edwards to the plate. Auburn's smallest player, Edwards ripped a shot over the right field wall for his first home run of the season. The blast gave Auburn a 7-0 lead, but the Tigers weren't done. Shortstop Adam Stacey was up next and he reached on an infield single to bring Sain to the plate. Looking comfortable at the dish, Sain ripped a single into right field to put runners on first and second. Another Johnstone single scored Stacey before Thomas ended the rally with a triple into left-center. His sixth three-bagger of the season gave Auburn a 10-0 advantage heading to the sixth.
Unfortunately for Mullins and the Tigers that's when the rain came. Army had runners on first and second with nobody out when the tarp was pulled on the field. Following a 42-minute rain delay Nicely came on and immediately got a double-play from Schuyler Williamson to help the situation for the Tigers. A groundout by Walker Gorham ended the inning with Auburn still leading by 10 runs.
The Tigers added single runs in the next two innings to extend the lead as Boutwell hit his fourth home run of the season to make it 11-0 and Sain followed in the seventh with a shot over the right field wall. It was his first home run of the season and gave Auburn a commanding 12-0 lead heading to the eighth inning. Army added three runs in the bottom of the eighth, but Cardwell pitched a scoreless ninth to make the final 12-3 Tigers.
Auburn will return to action Sunday night at 6 central time when they take on the homestanding Florida State Seminoles (52-18) for the second time on the weekend. The Tigers are expected to start sophomore Jared Shore while FSU will counter with Mark Sauls. If the Tigers win they'll force a final game to be played on Monday night also at 6 central time.