Auburn Pitchers Shut Out Virginia Commonwealth

Auburn got great pitching and strung together key hits to defeat VCU 7-0 on Saturday at Plainsman Park.

Auburn, Ala.—The Auburn baseball Tigers got a superb outing from freshman lefty Mike Felix on their way to a 7-0 victory over VCU in front of 3,972 sun-drenched fans at Plainsman Park on Saturday.

The victory improved Auburn's record to 12-1 going into Sunday's finale of the three-game series vs. the Rams.

Felix, who came into the game at 1-0 with a 3.75 earned run average, got the nod for the Tigers and he came out strong. Felix sat down the first nine batters that he faced and for the game he was stellar. The freshman allowed no runs in six innings of work and only gave up three hits and one walk while striking out six VCU hitters in the win.

"I thought it was good," Auburn coach Steve Renfroe said about Felix's performance. "Actually, I thought he had better stuff the last outing as far as tempo, but he got going there and gutted it out. Today he found pitches when he had to. He didn't walk anybody. He only walked one guy and he found ways to make pitches when he had to and I think that is a good sign. So, I thought he did an outstanding job."

Felix added that his off-speed pitches were what were getting the job done. "My change-up was working good," the freshman said. "It was consistently in the strike zone and my fast ball was pretty good, not as good as it usually is, but my curve ball was working excellently, too.

"My change up was my strikeout pitch really and my fast ball and curve ball were my setup pitches. I only threw it about eight times, but I got guys guessing and cheating on fast balls and got them out."

Mike Felix improved his record to 2-0 with a shutout win over VCU on Saturday.

The Tigers got things going at the plate in the first inning as center fielder Clete Thomas led off with a single into right field. Then on the first pitch to Ben Sprague, Thomas stole second and was initially called out, but VCU shortstop Matt Matheson couldn't hang on to the ball. Then a pair of sacrifices from Sprague and Tug Hulett put Thomas across the plate to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

Over the next three innings Felix and Rams' starting pitcher Cla Meredith, who pitched seven and 2/3 innings in the loss and gave up seven runs on seven hits and struck out six batters, were locked in a pitcher's dual. Neither would give an inch and the Tigers took a tight 1-0 lead into the fifth.

In the top of the fifth the Rams put runners on second and third with two outs on a walk to designated hitter Jeff Parrish plus a single by Robbie Gragnani that was just out of the reach of Tigers shortstop Chuck Jeroloman. They moved to second and third on a sacrifice from Scott Sizemore. However, Felix got out of the inning unscathed as catcher Pete Farina dribbled one back at the pitcher who threw him out to put an end to the threat.

Then in the bottom half of the fifth, Auburn broke out and scored three runs to take a 4–0 lead. Jeroloman led off and ripped a double that rolled to the corner of the wall in left center. Next Derek Sain sacrificed Jeroloman to third. Then things got interesting.

Josh Sullivan drew a walk to put runners on the corners. With Gragnani playing back at first, J.T. Williamson drove in Jeroloman with an RBI bunt single. Next, with Sullivan at second and Williamson at first, the Tigers put on the double steal. On the play Farina overthrew third baseman Granato and that allowed Sullivan to score and Williamson to advance to third on the error. Thomas then drove in Williamson with a single to right to give the Tigers the four-run lead.

Sullivan said following the game that the Renfroe just saw something in Meredith's motion and decided to take advantage of it. "I'm not a big runner stealing wise, but coach had noticed something and the at-bat before he said that if I got on be ready for the hit and run," Sullivan explained. "I didn't get on that at-bat, but next time I walked and J.T. bunted me over and he made it safely. Then he called a hit and run, which ended up being a double steal and he threw it away and it worked out well."

Sullivan added that he really liked Williamson's bunt that moved him into scoring position. "It was great," the sophomore noted. "I thought it was perfect timing just to bunt it down the first base side to move me over and get me in scoring position and it was a good bunt where they couldn't even make a play on him. It was a good call."

Renfroe said that getting key hits like the ones in the fifth were the big difference in the game.

"We knocked guys in and we had a nice bunt in there from J.T.," the coach said. "Clete showed up again with his running game. I thought we had some big hits when we needed to. I thought their guy is really good and we just capitalized on big hits and that is baseball."

In the bottom of the seventh, Josh Sullivan added an insurance run for the Tigers as he blasted a long high shot that didn't look like it was going to get out of the park, but dropped just over the monster in right.

Josh Sullivan, who was second on the team batting .393 heading into the game, hit his second home run of the season Saturday.

Sullivan, who was 1-2 and scored two runs, said that he didn't think he got that much on that ball. "Well, I didn't think it was actually going to get over," he said. "I got under it a whole lot. I hit it good, but I thought that it was straight up and I look over and the leftfielder was camping out like he was going to catch it and the next thing I know it goes over the wall."

Junior right hander John Madden took over on the mound for the Tigers in the seventh and didn't give up a hit in his inning of work. In the eighth senior Colby Paxton came on and finished things off for the Tigers giving up three hits in two innings.

In the bottom of the eighth the Tigers put a little icing on the win with two more runs. Tug Hulett started the rally with a walk. Next Gamble singled to right to advance Hulett to second. Then Jeroloman ripped an RBI double to left center that drove in both Hulett and Gamble.

Auburn scored seven runs on seven hits and had no errors in the game. VCU, who drops to 9-4 with the loss, scored no runs on six hits and had one error that led to an Auburn run.

For the Tigers, Jeroloman led the way going 2-4 with two RBI and scoring a run. Thomas was also 2-4 and he drove in a run and scored a run as well. For VCU, Eric Latura had two hits in the loss and Gragnani went 1-2 with a walk.

The Tigers will look to take the series sweep on Sunday. The game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. first pitch and tickets are still available and can be purchased prior to the game.

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