Auburn, Ala.--Following a disappointing pitching performance in Friday night’s win, Butch Thompson and the Auburn Tigers got just what the doctor ordered on Saturday afternoon as Justin Camp allowed just two hits in eight innings and struck out nine in a 7-0 win over Southern University.
The outing set career-highs for Camp in innings pitched and strikeouts and came at the perfect time for his team said Thompson.
“It always starts on the mound and I have been kind of begging for it and trying to pull it out, and a fifth-year senior with a lot of maturity went out there and handled the ball really good today,” Thompson said. “Instead of just fastball-fastball he’s added a little bit of a sinker to his repertoire and that really got a ton of ground balls. At the end of the day he was able to put a sinker in there if he got down in the count to end the at-bat. He winds up getting eight innings and at the end of the game we have no walks, so a very clean game from that standpoint.”
Settling back into his role as a starter after serving as Auburn’s closer a season ago, Camp said Saturday was a matter of just settling in early and throwing strikes down in the zone. That was enough to get him into a groove and he admitted it felt really good to have one of those days again on the mound.
“It felt good to just fill up the zone with all my pitches today and to just let my defense work,” Camp said. “To get a ton of ground balls moved the game on quick after a four-hour game last night. It was one of those quick games and helps the team get in and out a lot better.”
Much of the reason for Camp’s effectiveness was because of the addition of a sinker back to his list of available pitches. Putting it aside during his role as a closer, he said he brought it back this week and it made a big difference.
“I’ve always thrown it, I have thrown it since high school, but I kind of took it out of my pitches,” Camp said. “I didn’t feel like I really needed it. Coach (Greg) Drye actually came up to me during my bullpen and said ‘if you had to get a ground ball what pitch would you go to?’. I didn’t really have a good answer so I said maybe a slider.
“He asked me if I had anything I could throw and I said the sinker. I just worked on it in my bullpen and it was something I could keep down in the zone. All they could do was roll over the top of it, so that’s probably going to be my go-to pitch whenever a double play situation comes around anyway.”
At the plate Auburn got production from up and down the batting order as Josh Palacios led the way with three hits and two runs scored while Anfernee Grier and Daniel Robert both added two hits as part of a 12-hit attack on the day. That balance helped the Tigers score in the first six innings to put the game away and Thompson said it was fun to watch his club play offense on Saturday.
“It was just a clean game, a good baseball game,” Thompson said. “Offensively, starting there, it’s pretty easy when you score 18 runs like last night, but it’s a lot of bunching of hits and a couple of misplays and walks kind of lead to those big innings. For the most part our guys played offense to manufacture runs.
“We had some unselfish at-bats with less than two outs getting the ground ball or sacrifice fly in multiple innings,” he added. “In some regards it was pretty neat to see our offense play that way."
Daniel Robert had two hits for the Tigers
It started early on as Palacios reached on an error on the center fielder that allowed him to advance to second. Extending his hitting streak to 10 games, Ebert’s single scored Palacios to put the Tigers on the board in the first inning.
That started a streak of five consecutive one-run innings for the Tigers highlighted by a Palacios triple in the third inning and a solo home run by Robert in the fourth. Already up 5-0, Auburn broke the game open in the sixth as Robert and Melvin Gray both walked to start the inning. Pushing a single through the right side, Damon Haecker loaded the bases with nobody out for the Tigers.
It looked like the Tigers would leave them stranded as Cody Nulph popped up and freshman catcher Jonathan Foster struck out to bring Grier to the plate. Going down to get the pitch, Grier sent a ground ball back up the middle and beat the throw to first for an infield single. That allowed Gray to score the final run of the game for Auburn.
Getting through eight innings before giving way to Gordon Cardenas to finish things off in the ninth, Camp’s outstanding performance sets the table for a potential sweep for the Tigers. Gabe Klobosits gets the ball for Auburn on the mound Sunday with the game scheduled for 12:30 p.m.