Auburn, Ala.--Cody Nulph had three hits and seven Auburn pitchers combined to allow just two runs on five hits as the Tigers swatted the Alabama State Hornets 11-2 on Tuesday night at Plainsman Park. The win improves Auburn’s record to 18-19 overall and builds on the momentum for Butch Thompson’s club as they prepare to take to the road this weekend at Ole Miss.
Starter Izaac Yarbrough got the win for Auburn, giving up two runs on three hits in two and two/thirds innings of a designated start. Gordon Cardenas, Gabe Klobosits, Daniel Sprinkle, Ben Braymer, Marc Frazier and Andrew Mitchell combined to finish things off for the Tigers as they controlled things from start to finish.
“We had some good at-bats and that got us started off the right way,” Thompson said. “Yarbrough gave us two zeros to start off at least. The third was a little tricky for us, but we got a lot of guys in and a lot of construction work tonight.”
At the plate Damon Haecker was 2-3 with a walk and also reached on an error in his four plate appearances. That now makes 12 consecutive plate appearances he’s reached base as he’s brought a steadying hand to the shortstop position while finding his groove at the plate. Also back in the everyday lineup at second base, senior Melvin Gray was 2-3 with two runs scored on the night as he’s pushed his average up to .266 following a dreadful start to the season.
Getting Haecker and Gray going as well as Nulph at third base is something that Thompson said is big for his team as the Tigers head into the second half of the SEC schedule.
"It's either the fourth or fifth start in a row for Gray and he's looking more comfortable at-bat and even in the field too," Thompson said. "I thought it was great getting Cody back in there at third base and I thought he handled the ball well. He got a big base hit there and I think it was right after we had coughed up the two runs. It was 5-2 and he has runners on second and third with two strikes and gives himself up and has a backside single. I would like to tip my hat to Cody Nulph for really responding and coming back and moving to third base and really helping us tonight."
Auburn’s offense got untracked very early on Tuesday night as center fielder Anfernee Grier hit a towering home run to lead off the bottom of the first for the Tigers. It was his eighth home run of the season and the first to start a game for Auburn since Grier did the trick almost two years ago.
The Tigers weren’t done in the first inning however as a walk to Melvin Gray and a one-out error on a Niko Buentello ground ball put runners on first and second for Blake Logan. Turning on a pitch, Logan hit a blast off the top of the green monster for a double to make it 2-0 Tigers and put runners on second and third.
A sacrifice fly from Jackson Burgreen pushed the lead to three before Haecker would do some damage with a ground rule double into the right field corner. That pushed the Auburn lead to four and set the stage for an easy win for the Tigers.
Adding a run in the second inning on a Jordan Ebert home run, Auburn led 5-0 going to the third when Yarbrough ran into trouble for the first and only time of the night for the Tigers’ pitching. Giving up back-to-back singles before a sacrifice bunt moved both runners up, Yarbrough hit the next hitter to load the bases for the Hornets. Coming back to strike out the next guy, the left-hander put himself in a position to get out of the jam but a pair of passed balls by Auburn freshman catcher Jonathan Foster allowed two runs to score for Alabama State and give the visitors some life.
Jordan Ebert looks on after he blasts his second home run of the season
Auburn quickly took that life away as Burgreen tripled to start the bottom of the third before a Haecker walk put two runners on. Eventually Haecker would move to second with two outs before a Cody Nulph single scored two more to break the game open for the Tigers.
Back in front 7-2, Auburn would add a single run in the fourth and two more in the fifth to push the lead to eight. Another single run in the eighth would be the last for the Tigers as they cruised to the victory.
Auburn returns to action this weekend when the Tigers travel to Ole Miss to face the Rebels in a three-game series beginning Friday. Game times for the weekend are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.