Senior righty Colby Paxton got the start for the Tigers, his first since a February 24th win over Samford. Paxton pitched three innings, only giving up one hit and one walk and striking out one batter.
However, after Paxton was finished the Tigers used a veritable plethora of right-handed pitchers to defeat the Trojans. Freshman Jared Shore, junior John Madden, sophomore Chris Dennis, sophomore Michael Nix and junior closer Steven Register all saw action on the mound for the Tigers on Tuesday.
Tigers' Coach Steve Renfroe said that will be a likely theme for the rest of the season. "It's a midweek game and we are trying to get through a game and have everybody ready for the weekend," the coach explained. "So normally you are going to see that on Tuesdays. We are going to throw a lot of guys."
The Tigers put their first run across the plate in the third inning with the help of Trojans' third baseman Jesse Mainor. Josh Sullivan started things with a walk. Then, Mike Hyntka put down a bunt single to put runners on first and second.
Next Clete Thomas slapped a ball right at Mainor, who couldn't come up with it and when it rolled past him into left field Sullivan scored on the play.
Chuck Jeroloman has been a big reason that the Tigers keep on winning.
That was the only run Troy State starter Eric Wikstrom would give up. The senior right-hander, who came into the game with an earned run average of 1.00 in 18 innings of work, pitched five innings giving up only the unearned run on one hit while allowing three walks.
Tigers' shortstop Chuck Jeroloman said that Wickstrom had things going his way early. "He kept us on our toes all day," Jeroloman noted. "He mixed up speeds real well. He kept us off balance by throwing his slider in different counts and his change-up when he was ahead of us."
The Trojans came back in the fifth to tie the game. After Shore, who took over for Paxton in the fourth, gave up a leadoff single to Clint Robinson, Madden took over on the mound for the Tigers.
However, Madden, who came into the game 1.93 earned run average, was not at his best. After striking out Chase Amis for the first out of the inning, Madden walked Mainor to put runners on first and second. Then, following a pop out to second from Tom Whitaker for the second out of the inning, second baseman Casey O'Quinn knocked a single to left that scored Robinson to make the score 1-1.
Following another walk to Brian Bennett to load the bases, Dennis took over on the mound for the Tigers and got Wade Miller to ground out to first to end the threat.
Troy State put up another run in the sixth to take a 2-1 advantage. Right fielder Lenny Maier got things started with a single off Dennis. Next Robinson singled to right center to put runners on first and third and Amis drove Maier home on with a sacrifice fly. Mainor then singled to left to put runners on the corners again, but Whitaker grounded out to end the inning.
However, the Tigers had a rally of their own in the bottom of the inning. Auburn scored three runs to take a 4-2 lead that would eventually be the final score. The first run came on a two-out, RBI double down the left field line by Sean Gamble that drove in Sprague from third.
Sprague drew a walk to start the inning and then reached second on a wild pitch. Hulett then grounded out to second, but Sprague was able to advance to third. It looked like the opportunity might have been lost after a Josh Bell strikeout, but then Gamble went to work.
"We were struggling," Gamble explained about his team before his double. "We were down and everybody was kind of lax. They were getting after us and we just had to come back and find a way. I didn't have the best at-bats the time before and that time I just had to slow myself down and try to drive the ball the other way.
"It was a fastball away and I knew they were going to do that because that was what they were throwing all day," Gamble said. "I was just pulling off of them trying to pull outside pitches and right there I just had to shorten up and hit it into left field."
Following Gamble's double, Jeroloman ripped a triple to the gap in right center, which just tipped off of Trojans' center fielder Whitaker's glove to drive in Gamble. Then, after knocking in what would be the game winner, Jeroloman crossed the plate on a passed ball to give Auburn what would be the final run of the game.
"I had looked ugly at two sliders earlier in the at-bat and I knew I was going to get one then," Jeroloman said about his triple that put the Tigers ahead to stay. "I just tried stay with it and hit it the other way and it got up in the wind. I think it carried it a little bit. I hit it all right, but it ended up pretty close to the wall and I didn't think I hit it all that great."
Nix took over on the mound in the seventh and was solid in one and 2/3 innings of work. He only gave up two hits and struck out three Trojan batters with his velocity in the nineties. Then, Register came on to pick up the final out of the eighth and pick up his third save of the season by sitting down the Trojans one, two, three in the ninth.
For the Trojans, who scored two runs on nine hits and committed two costly errors in the loss, Robinson led the way going 3-4 and scoring a run. O'Quinn was 1-5 with an RBI and Manior went 1-2.
Despite not playing their best baseball at all times the Tigers have found ways to win and Gamble says that will be very important down the road for his club. "It's big because a lot of times you don't win these games and they come up to hurt you in the long run," he explains. "You know, when you start getting seedings for tournaments and stuff. The games like that you have just got find a way, you have got to dig deep and find a way to win."
Next the Tigers will take the show on the road for the first time this weekend as they head to Clemson to take on the CU Tigers in a three-game set. The games are scheduled for 3 p.m. Central on Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Also, Sunday's game will be televised by Comcast Sports South.