Kentucky collected 13 hits against pitchers Arnold Hughey and Chris Dennis to provide plenty of offense to get the win, but it was the pitching of Gibson that stole the show in the SEC opener. Using pinpoint accuracy and changing speeds, he kept Auburn off-balance all night to get the easy victory.
Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said the performance was one that left him speechless, not only because of Gibson's performance but also because of his own hitters.
"He really stuffed us," Renfroe said. "That was the story of the game. I don't think we had but two really solid at-bats against him, that's how dominant he was. He's not throwing 95, but people talk about Greg Maddux not being a power guy, I think a power guy is anybody that can take the bat out of your hand and stop the aggressive swings. When you command the zone and command the speed and you're taking the aggressiveness away from hitters and they can't center you up. That's a pretty dominating outing in my book."
The Tigers continued a downhill slide on offense for a second-straight game after an anemic performance Wednesday night in a loss to Troy State when they struck out 10 times. With names like Tug Hulett, Sean Gamble and Chuck Jeroloman all hitting under .300, Renfroe said that there's not much to do with the offense now but keep working for improvement.
"It's not like we're not trying," Renfroe said. "It's one of those things where you've got some guys that have done it before and they're struggling. We have to find a way. It's not a great offensive team, we knew that, but certainly we didn't think it would be one-hit and shut out. We have to pitch and play defense."
Pitching dominated the early portion of the game as both Hughey and Gibson controlled the action. Kentucky did manage two singles in the first, but they lead to nothing as Hughey got both Mike Breyman and John Shelby to pop up to Josh Sullivan at first to end the inning. The second came on a interesting play by Sullivan as he dropped the ball initially, but caught it bare-handed on a dive to end the inning.
While Auburn was struggling at the plate without a hit through three innings, the Wildcats finally got to Hughey in the fourth. Breyman led off the inning and was hit by a pitch to bring Shelby to the plate. The speedy Shelby put down a sacrifice bunt, but beat the play to first for a base hit. Casey Gilvin then sacrificed both runners over with a bunt to bring Jake Kungl to the plate. The third baseman hit a blooper into center field just out of the reach of Clete Thomas. The hit scored Breyman with the first run of the game and put runners on first and third.
Shortstop Joe Naill then did his job with a sacrifice fly into right field that scored Shelby from third to make it 2-0 Wildcats. Catcher Justin Scutchfield closed the scoring for the inning when he ripped a shot past Ben Maitland at third base to score Kungl from second. Leading 3-0, the Wildcats would come back for more in the fifth.
While Gibson continued to dominate the Tigers, Kentucky did even more damage to Hughey when Caleb Stewart's one-out single in the fifth started another rally. Playing the single, Gamble slipped to allow the ball to roll to the wall and Stewart to cruise into second.
Breyman followed with a hard single into right field to put runners on the corners with one out. Shelby then doubled to left to score Stewart, but a perfect relay from Gamble to Jeroloman to Mike Hyntka at the plate cut down Breyman from first. Gilvin continued the assault with a double of his own down the right field line to score Shelby and just like that Kentucky was ahead 5-0.
That would be all Gibson would need on this night as he completely dominated the Tigers with the first Auburn hit coming off the bat of Thomas with one out in the sixth. Despite a triple to give the Tigers some life, a strikeout by Ben Sprague and a Hulett liner to the shortstop put an end to the Auburn threat.
Kentucky stretched the lead on the Tigers in the seventh thanks to the bat of Stewart once again. With one out he drilled one deep into left-center that went for a triple. Breyman followed with a sacrifice fly to right field to score Stewart for a 6-0 advantage.
The Wildcats would add another single run in the eighth off reliever Chris Dennis when Scutchfield doubled to right center to score Kungl from second. A single run in the ninth made the final 8-0 Kentucky and leaves the Tigers scratching their heads going into Saturday's matchup.
Freshman left-hander Mike Felix takes the mound for the Tigers on Saturday hoping to even up the series for Auburn. The first pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. following the A-Day football game at nearby Jordan-Hare Stadium.