While it wasn't the cleanest of games for the Tigers with five runners thrown out on the bases and three errors, Coach Sunny Golloway said he was proud of the way his team responded following a tough week on and off the field.
"I think our guys did a terrific job coming out," Golloway said. "They came out ready to play. I could tell in our pre-game and I could tell in our batting practice. There was an extra step in our dugout and our locker room. The guys just came to the yard really excited and we jumped on them quick. That was big."
On the mound true freshman Kevin Davis got his first action of the season after a sore shoulder kept him on the shelf for the entire fall and much of the preseason after being overworked during his senior year with 168 innings of use between high school, summer ball and Team USA.
Still not throwing close to the velocity he has shown in the past, Davis allowed two runs on two hits in three innings and threw 49 pitches. He said overall it was a solid outing for his first true game experience since last summer.
"It was a good feeling being back out there and being able to compete and be with your teammates," Davis said. "I felt good. The ball is still not coming out great. I would say I was about 80 percent today. I'm not quite 100 percent, but it's getting back there. That's all we're really asking for right now."
Continuing his strong early play, freshman Anfernee Grier was was of three Tigers with two hits. He was joined by Jordan Ebert and Ryan Tella. Raising his batting average to .300 on the season, the right fielder said seeing the offense break out and have a better performance was important for the team as it prepares to face Presbyterian this weekend in another tune-up for SEC play.
"That took some of the pressure off," Grier said of the big first inning. "We have been coming out scoreless the first five innings, maybe, so to get five runs in the first inning we got to play our game like we wanted to the rest of the way."
Leading off for Auburn in the first following a scoreless inning from Davis on the mound, freshman second baseman Damon Haecker singled to right field to start the biggest inning of the season so far for the Tigers. Following a sacrifice bunt, Dan Glevenyak singled to right field to score Haecker and put Auburn runners on the corners with one out for Blake Austin. Getting a pitch he could get in the air, Austin hit a deep fly ball to left field to score Haecker and put the Tigers on the board first.
Auburn was far from done in the inning, however, as Damek Tomscha singled to left field, the first of four consecutive hits for the Tigers. A Keegan Thompson double and back-to-back singles by Daniel Robert and Ebert quickly made it 5-0 Auburn over Alabama A&M.
Allowing single runs in the second and third innings, Davis gave way to Justin Camp in the fourth to take it from there. With the lead down to three, Auburn got the bats heated up again to add to its lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. With a walk to lead off, Thompson was driven home as Ebert hit a one-out liner off the wall in left field for a double. Rounding second a little wide, Ebert was thrown out trying to scramble back into the bag for the second out of the inning.
It proved to be significant as Tella singled and quickly stole second to move into scoring position. A walk to Haecker brought freshman Anfernee Grier up with a chance to break the game open. Lacing a single into left field to extend his hitting streak to eight games, Grier did his job but Tella was easily thrown out at the plate for what appeared to be the third out of the inning. Arguing that his runner was interfered with, Golloway got his way and Tella was given home plate for the 7-2 Auburn lead.
Alabama A&M added a run in the seventh inning thanks to a pair of walks and an error by the Tigers before Jay Wade came on to shut the door and leave two runners stranded for the Bulldogs.
Trey Cochran-Gill struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth inning to secure the win for Auburn and give the team some positive momentum heading into the weekend.
Following a 1-3 week on the diamond and three players (Patrick Savage, Chase Williamson, Hunter Kelley) no longer being part of the team following Sunday meetings with Golloway, Auburn's first-year coach said he has seen some good signs from his team and is looking forward to the future.
"You saw how the guys came out," Golloway said. "They are really having fun in the dugout. It feels different right now. We talked to a lot of guys about if they want to be here or not, and some of the guys realized they really want to be here. They want to do whatever it takes and they want to win.
"Filling our roles better is going to be important as we move forward," the coach added. "I think that we will, I really do."