The win moves Auburn to 36-16 on the year while Mercer falls to 11-34. Dennis, pitching three hitless innings to start the game, improved his record to 3-2 on the season. Sullivan pitched three innings and allowed the only hit of the game while walking two Mercer hitters. Even though they pitched well, the story of the game was the performance of Brandon.
After watching film of his throwing motion from two seasons ago and earlier this year, Brandon and the Auburn coaching staff saw a flaw in his delivery. Bending over more in his windup than he normally would, Brandon was unable to get on top of the ball and force it downward. That was causing his pitches to float to the plate. From what he showed Tuesday night, that problem could be a thing of the past.
"We really scripted it three, three and three," Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said following the win. "We wanted to leave Sully out there in a jam, we needed to get that going. I thought that was big for him. He actually loosened up, his third inning was actually his best stuff. A big key was really for Eric to get out there.
"I told him ‘I'm going to use you like a closer. I'm not going to start you because we need somebody to fill the role of Levale. If you do like your freshman year then we have two guys down there in you and Steven (Steven Register) and we're a whole new ball club.' I thought that was a big step for him."
Freshman right fielder Clete Thomas led the way at the plate with three hits and also added two stolen bases. Leadoff hitter Sean Gamble had two hits, including a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning that sealed the win. Both Tug Hulett and Josh Bell added two hits as well as part of Auburn's 12-hit attack.
The Tigers got on the board in the first and for the 7th time in 10 games Gamble led off with a base hit. After he was erased on a fielder's choice off the bat of Moran, Hulett moved Moran to second on a single up the middle. Bell then scored Moran from third and moved Hulett to the corner when he dropped a single into right-center field. Unfortunately for the Tigers Bell was picked off first and Karl Amonite flew out to center field to end the inning with Auburn leading just 1-0.
With Dennis cruising on the mound, Auburn came back for more in the third inning. With one out, Moran singled up the middle. Not knowing the hitting prowess of Hulett, Mercer played him straight away in the outfield and he dropped a double just inside the left field line scoring Moran on the play. That would be all though as Bell and Amonite couldn't push him across. Leading just 2-0, Dennis gave way to Sullivan in the fourth.
Clete Thomas led the way with three hits Tuesday night."
After retiring the Bears in the inning, Auburn came back and scored yet another single run with Thomas in the middle of the action. With one out, he drilled a pitch deep off the center field wall. Running through second base without hesitating, Thomas slid into third with a triple setting up freshman Derek Sain. In the role of designated hitter, Sain singled through the right side to score Thomas and make it 3-0 Tigers.
The lead increased in the sixth inning as Thomas singled through the right side to lead off the inning. Showing his speed, Thomas reached second on a slow ground ball by Sain and both runners were safe with nobody out. With two outs in the inning, Auburn got some help as Mercer's pitcher threw a wild pitch that scored Thomas to make it 4-0.
Still coasting without a problem on the mound, the Tigers put away all doubts in the eighth inning. Leading off the inning, Thomas singled up the middle and quickly stole second and third base with pinch hitter Doug Vines at the plate. After Vines walked, shortstop Chuck Jeroloman hit a ground ball that Mercer was unable to turn two on and could only force Jeroloman at first while Thomas scored from third. That proved to be important as Gamble bombed the first pitch he saw deep over the right field wall for a two-run home run. Leading 7-0, Brandon closed things out in the ninth with his best performance of the season.
"I like coming out of the bullpen," Brandon said. "I've liked it ever since I got here, but they wanted me to start. Coming out of the bullpen I know I can go as hard as I can, max effort for three innings, because you have guys coming in behind me. As a starter it's a little bit different.
"We need somebody to pick up what he's done," Brandon added of Levale Speigner. "Hopefully I can pick it up."
The Tigers return to action Friday night at 6:30 p.m. when they host the Ole Miss Rebels in the first of three games at Plainsman Park to close out the regular season. Auburn and the Rebels are tied for second place in the Western Division of the SEC.