Auburn, Ala.--Auburn pitcher Gabe Klobosits allowed just one run in eight innings and first baseman Niko Buentello went 3-4 with a home run and three RBI as the Tigers took down Troy 7-2 on Tuesday night at Plainsman Park. Second baseman Melvin Gray added three hits for Auburn as part of a 14-hit attack for the Tigers as they improved to 22-26 with the victory over the Trojans.
“Getting eight innings with two midweek games and coming off an SEC series and getting ready for another one was what the doctor ordered so to speak,” Coach Butch Thompson said. “Gabe’s growth, he just really came out and pitched with his fastball. We really committed to that the first time through and the defense made all the plays.
“That’s 18 innings or two games where we’ve walked just one batter,” he added. “We didn’t walk our first batter until the ninth inning. That’s going to give you a chance to win when you can play defense and not walk batters and give them freebies. They hit a couple of balls hard, but it’s hard to generate offense or have a big inning when you’re not helped with a walk or a HBP, a free pass of some nature.”
While the offense did its job, the story of the game was Klobosits. Entering the game with a 3-5 record and an ERA of 5.93, the junior struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter in eight innings to get the victory. Even though he was the hitting star for the Tigers, Buentello said for him the story was big Gabe.
“It was huge,” Buentello said of the win. “Like I’ve been saying all season long, it starts on the mound. Gabe did a really good job tonight and we played good defense behind him. He did a good job of filling up the zone and letting the defense work and it worked out again.”
Niko Buentello's 10 home runs, tied with Anfernee Grier, is the most for an Auburn player since 2010.
Auburn got the offense started in the bottom of the second on a Cody Nulph infield single with the bases loaded to make it 1-0. The lead increased to two in the third when Gray doubled to start the inning and later scored on a Buentello groundout. Troy answered back with a run in the top of the fifth, but Auburn wouldn’t flinch.
In the fifth the Tigers added to the lead thanks to one swing of the bat from Buentello, but it could have been a bigger inning if not for a missed call at second base. Leading off Gray singled and was standing on first base with one out and Buentello at the plate when the senior broke for second. In ahead of the tag, Gray was instead called out. On the very next pitch Buentello hit a high blast just over the wall in right-center to make it 3-1 Auburn.
With Klobosits still very much in control the Tigers broke the game open in the seventh. Working the count full, Anfernee Grier yanked a pitch down the left field line that somehow remained fair as it crossed over the green monster for a home run. It was his 10th of the year to tie Buentello for the team lead.
Back-to-back singles from Gray and Jordan Ebert followed Grier’s blast to bring Buentello back to the plate with runners on the corners and still nobody out. Hitting a high fly ball to left, Buentello reached first on a single when Troy’s Trevor Davis lost the ball in the lights. Gray scored on the play for the third RBI of the game for Buentello.
Auburn added the third run of the inning on a Jackson Burgreen single before finishing the scoring with a Kyler Deese sacrifice fly. That pushed the Tigers’ lead to 7-1. Troy would add a meaningless run in the top of the ninth off reliever Gordon Cardenas, but it was far too little and too late for the Trojans on this night.
The Tigers will return to action Wednesday night at 6 p.m. when they take on Kennesaw State at Plainsman Park. Junior Andrew Mitchell is expected to the start for Auburn on the mound.