Blast Off For Tomscha As Tigers Win Opener

Junior college transfer Damek Tomscha's walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Auburn Tigers a 3-2 win over Maine in the baseball season opener at Plainsman Park.

Auburn, Ala.—Auburn junior third baseman Damek Tomscha was brought in this season partly for his defensive prowess, but on Friday it was his offense that proved to be the difference for the Tigers in a 3-2 win over Maine as he singled home the tying run in the sixth inning and then won it in the ninth with a walk-off home run to left field.

Mobbed at the plate by his teammates following the blast to left, Tomscha says it's hard to imagine a better start to his career than the one he had in the season opener.

"That was pretty special," Tomscha says. "I was just trying to slow the game down a little bit and tried to stay calm up there. Home runs are mistakes and that's kind of what happened. It was a 3-1 count so I kind of figured he would throw me a fastball. He wound up leaving it high and inside and I got a good swing on it."

The blast capped off a solid day for the Auburn newcomers as freshman outfielder Jackson Burgreen, thrust into the starting lineup following a one-game suspension to senior Cullen Wacker, doubled twice and scored one run. Fellow freshman outfielder Sam Gillikin added one hit, but his biggest play came in right field as he robbed Maine of a three-run homer in the fifth inning that proved to be the difference on Friday.

Freshman Jackson Burgreen produced two doubles in the season opener playing left field for the Tigers

On the mound starter Daniel Koger allowed one unearned run on three hits in five innings while Trey Cochran-Gill allowed a run on two hits. The story came from the rest of the bullpen as Conner Kendrick allowed just one hit and struck out three in two innings while Terrance Dedrick struck out the only batter he faced to earn his first career win.

"What a hard-fought game," Coach John Pawlowski said. "Maine played extremely well and pitched well. We were very fortunate. Sam Gillikin went up and climbed the wall there and made a tremendous and athletic play.

"Damek, what can you say? He's a guy we (brought in) to really shore up our defense and he gets a ball up in the zone and ends up hitting a big home run for us."

Maine got the scoring started in the top of the second inning thanks to some shaky defense by the Tigers. Leading off the inning, Scott Heath reached on an error by shortstop Dan Glevenyak as he dropped a pop up along the third base line behind the bag. A double by Alex Calbick followed to put runners on first and second with nobody out for the Black Bears.

Koger added to the problems as he hit DH Fran Whitten to load the bases with nobody out for the bottom of the order. Following a strikeout, Koger gave up a rope to catcher Mike Connolly off the monster in left field. Doing a good job of fooling the runner at second, Burgreen played the ball off the wall perfectly to allow just one run to score. It proved to be huge as Auburn got out of the inning with two ground balls and trailed just 1-0.

That's how things would stand until the sixth as Auburn had runners on base in each of the first five innings, but failed to score. After a double in his first at-bat, Burgreen delivered again to lead off Auburn's sixth to set the stage for the Tigers. Moving up to third on a sacrifice bunt, Burgreen looked like he would be stranded at third again when Ryan Tella struck out, but Garrett Cooper had other ideas.

Getting a pitch to pull the senior first baseman drilled a double of his own to left field to tie the game at one and bring Tomscha to the plate. With the left side of the infield open he dribbled a single through the hole to score Cooper from second and put Auburn up 2-1.

The lead would not last long, however, as Cochran-Gill gave up a double with one out to number nine hitter Sam Balzano and Colin Gay followed with a double of his own to tie the game and put the go-ahead run at second. Former Auburn High product Reid Carter came in to get the second out of the inning before Kendrick finished off the inning with a ground ball to keep the game tied.

Kendrick cruised into the ninth and got the first two Maine hitters before allowing a two-out double to Gay. With a right-hander in White coming to the plate Pawlowski brought on Dedrick to try to keep the game tied. His strikeout set the stage for the dramatic Auburn win in the ninth.

Auburn and Maine return to action Saturday at noon with a doubleheader at Plainsman Park. Sophomore Rocky McCord will get the call in game one while junior college transfer Michael O'Neal will start game two of the day.

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