Auburn, Ala.--Auburn finished off a tough home season on a high note Tuesday night as the Tigers got a pair of hits and two RBI from Niko Buentello and strong pitching in a 4-1 win over UAB. Improving to 23-30 on the season with the win, Butch Thompson’s club now prepares for the final weekend of SEC play at Vanderbilt and do so with a little positive momentum thanks to the guys on the mound.
Auburn got a quality outing from starting pitcher Daniel Sprinkle (2-1) in a game when the Tigers needed to avoid going deep into the bullpen. Allowing just a pair of hits in five and one/third innings, Sprinkle allowed just one unearned run on the night and it came in the first inning. Taking over for him, left-hander Andrew Mitchell finished things off for the Tigers by allowing just one hit in the final three and two/thirds innings to get his first career save.
“To get out of there with a three-hitter, those two guys did a really good job,” Thompson said. “At least everybody else has another day or two of rest heading into this short week with the series at Vandy. Buentello had a good night with an RBI and RBI in the first couple of at-bats. We played enough offense, but we’ve got to play more to have a chance in a series on the road. We did enough tonight in our final home game.”
It was the final home game for a group of seniors that have been through a whole lot of ups and downs in their career. One of those players, Jordan Ebert, said it was huge to get a win for momentum heading into the weekend but also to get a win in his final game at Plainsman Park.
“It’s a bittersweet day for me,” Ebert said. “I was happy for the win, but it’s the last time I’ll get to play on this field. It’s been a special four years. I love Auburn with all my heart and I’m just so glad that I got to stick it out and go here for as long as I did. War Eagle guys, I love everything about it.”
Auburn seniors saying goodbye to the K Corner
Hitting the first batter of the game, Sprinkle recovered to get the next hitter on a groundout to move leadoff man Griffin Gum to second. Facing Brewer Hicklen, Sprinkle got another ground ball but Cody Nulph’s throw sailed over the head of Buentello at first base. The error allowed Gum to score and put UAB on the scoreboard.
Auburn answered back in the bottom of the first when Melvin Gray reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second with two outs to move into scoring position. Facing a left-hander the Auburn first baseman went the other way with a single to score Gray and tie the game.
In the third the Tigers took the lead and once again it was Buentello at the center of things. With Ebert on first following a single, Buentello drilled a double off the wall in right field to score the senior and put Auburn in front 2-1.
“It was huge,” Buentello said of the win. “My first at-bat they shaded me to the right side and I was able to poke something to left. My second at-bat they hung a changeup and I took advantage of it. I thought I had one, but with this weather it didn’t go anywhere.”
That’s how things would stand until the bottom of the seventh when the Tigers would add to the lead. Already reaching with a single on the night, Nulph walked with one out to give Auburn some life. Freshman catcher Jonathan Foster was then hit by a pitch to bring the top of the order to the plate.
The second walk of the inning by UAB pitching loaded the bases for Auburn, giving Gray a chance to do some damage. Getting a pitch to hit the second baseman singled through the right side to give the Tigers a two-run lead. Ebert finished off the scoring for Auburn with a sacrifice fly to center field to give Mitchell another insurance run.
Auburn returns to action beginning Thursday night as the Tigers travel to Nashville to face Vanderbilt in a three-game series.