"Sunshine" Warms Tigers In Win Over Hofstra

Nicknamed "Sunshine", sophomore Josh Sullivan was the hitting star for the Tigers on a cold Friday win over Hofstra.

Auburn, Ala.--Josh Sullivan has two days of full-time baseball left before spring football practice begins on Sunday and he plans to take advantage of every minute available. He got off to a good start on Friday with a career day at the plate in 10th-ranked Auburn's 19-4 pounding of Hofstra in the series opener. The Tigers move to 7-1 on the season while Hofstra falls to 0-3.

The sophomore went 3-4 with five runs batted in, including in his three hits was his first career home run. The day raised Sullivan's average to a healthy .471 on the season and he's second on the team in doubles and RBI. Coach Steve Renfroe said that Sullivan has really come on strong and his hitting on Friday was an example of what he can do when his approach is good at the plate.

"He really has a lot of power the other way and he's really been trying hard to go that way," Renfroe said of Sullivan. "It was nice to see that pay off. He just needs to keep getting at-bats and I think he'll put up runs for us."

"Coach has been working on me getting off the plate a little bit and letting my arms cover the outside of the plate," Sullivan added. "I'm trying to stay inside and drive everything into right and right center. I got the pitch to do it and it happened. It felt good."

Josh Sullivan has been a pleasant surprise for the Tigers at the plate this season.

While the Auburn offense was on fire Friday, the starting pitching continues to struggle as junior Arnold Hughey got the win against Hofstra, but didn't do it in impressive fashion. The left-hander gave up four runs on six hits with all of the runs coming in the second inning. It was his second-straight rough outing and Renfroe said that he wasn't pleased with Hughey's performance despite the win.

"I'm not real happy and let them know that," Renfroe said. "You have to go out every time and it's precious every time you get on that mound. That wasn't his "A" game and we have to bring out "A" game every time with focus. He didn't make quality pitches when he needed to and I think he'll get better at doing that. You can't turn it on and off. You pitch or you don't pitch and that's where we're most concerned right now is getting consistent from that."

The Auburn bullpen was masterful in Hughey's relief on Friday as Grant Cardwell pitched three hitless innings to set the stage for Lee Carter to close the game in the ninth. The duo didn't allow a hit in four innings and struck out two Hofstra hitters.

Auburn got off to a good start on a cold Friday afternoon at Plainsman Park. Inserted into the leadoff spot for the first time this season, Clete Thomas singled to open the bottom of the first and quickly stole second to move into scoring position. Following a groundout by Ben Sprague that moved Thomas to third, Tug Hulett hit a ground ball to the right side to score Thomas with the game's first run. Josh Bell then walked to bring Sean Gamble to the plate. Continuing his hot streak from Tuesday, Gamble drilled a triple to left-center to score Bell and make it 2-0 Tigers, but the lead wouldn't last very long.

The Pride would come out swinging in the second to put the Tigers on notice that they were ready to play. First baseman Mike Perullo singled to right field to open the inning off Hughey and J.P. Wechter followed with a blooper that was just out of the reach of Ben Maitland at third base. Following a strikeout, Hofstra's Athanasopoulos hit a ground ball in the hole at short that Chuck Jeroloman fielded and threw to Maitland on the run at third for the inning's second out.

Tug Hulett leads off second against Hofstra on Friday.

Catcher Steve Oliveri had an infield single next for Hofstra that scored Wechter all the way from second base. Left fielder Eric Balson then doubled to left field to score Athanasopoulos. Trying to cut the ball off before it got to the wall, Gamble bobbled the ball allowing Oliveri to score from first. Josh Stewart closed out the scoring with a single to center field to score Balson and make it 4-2 Hofstra, but the lead would be very short lived.

After scoring a single run in the third on a Chuck Jeroloman ground ball to push across Hulett, the Tigers exploded in the fourth inning with everyone getting into the act. Maitland led off the inning with a walk and moved to third on a single by Thomas up the middle. Sprague then put down a perfect safety-squeeze up the first base line for a single that scored Maitland from third. After Thomas and Sprague moved up on balk, Hulett lifted a fly ball into left field to score Thomas.

Bell was next for the Tigers and he reached safely on a fielder's choice as his ground ball to third base got a throw to second to try to catch Sprague sleeping, but it didn't work. Following a Gamble bunt single, all the runners advanced and Bell scored on a wild pitch. Jeroloman then singled through the left side to score Bell and move Gamble to third. Hofstra's Huth again balked, this time scoring Gamble from third with Auburn's fifth and final run of the inning. That would just be the start of a big day for the Tigers at the plate that culminated with a huge fifth inning.

Continuing his hot hitting, Thomas tripled to right field to open the inning. Sprague followed with a single through the left side that scored Thomas and put an end to Huth's day. A new pitcher would only spell more doom for Hofstra as the Tigers added seven more runs in the inning to built a 16-4 lead. The big blow came on a Sullivan single to left field that pushed across two runs. In all the Tigers would pound out seven hits and eight runs in the fifth to break the game wide open.

The finishing touches on the day came from Sullivan in the sixth inning. With one out and nobody on, Kyle Mayo came reached on a walk after entering the game at third with Maitland moving to short for Jeroloman. Derek Sain was hit by a pitch to bring Sullivan to the plate looking for more. The big sophomore loaded up and drilled a long fly ball into right field that just cleared the wall for his first career home run. Leading 19-4, Auburn closed the game out strong with Cardwell and Carter slamming the door on the Pride. The combination held Hofstra hitless in their four innings of work with Cardwell looking impressive in his second outing of the season. Box Score

Auburn returns to action Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. when they take on Hofstra in the second of a three-game series this weekend at Plainsman Park.

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