Auburn Uses Long Ball To Burn Blazers

Auburn took advantage of scoring opportunities in a 13-6 victory over UAB Tuesday night.

Birmingham, Ala.-–Catcher Josh Sullivan hit a grand slam and Birmingham natives Derek Sain and Kyle Mayo each hit solo home runs as the 14th-ranked Auburn Tigers (18-5) broke out of an offensive funk to defeat the UAB Blazers 13-6 Tuesday night at Young Memorial Field. After breaking open a tied game in the sixth inning with three runs, Auburn relievers John Madden, Chris Dennis and Cory Dueitt combined to strike out 13 of the last 14 outs in the game as the Tigers cruised to the victory.

Coach Steve Renfroe said this was just what the doctor ordered for his team as they head to face a tough Tennessee squad this coming weekend in Knoxville.

"We needed this win and we needed to pitch a lot of guys," Renfroe said. "We needed to come up with some big hits and we did that. We needed to get some guys get clutch hits and we did that. We were just trying to get some guys work on the mound and John Madden, that was the best slider he's had. He had really good stuff. It was a legit slider and reminded me of Colter Bean. If he could do that it would be great because Colter is one of the best we've ever had.

"Chris Dennis was really good tonight. He was running it up there, but with location. Then he had his slider for the first time in a few weeks. I thought Cory was better. He got his going. All in all it was some good work for us."

Auburn got things going early when Sean Gamble led off with a double to left field off UAB starter Grant Addison. Tug Hulett then walked to bring Josh Bell to the plate, but a steady diet of breaking balls got Bell on strikes to bring Auburn's leading hitter Clete Thomas to the plate. The sophomore continued his tear with a sharp single to center that scored Gamble from second and moved Hulett to third. After Thomas stole second it looked like Auburn was poised for a big inning, but a strikeout by Chuck Jeroloman and a fly out by Sullivan put an end to the threat with Auburn up 1-0.

UAB got the run back in the bottom of the first off Tiger starter Jared Shore, but Auburn escaped more damage when a Blazer runner missed third base on a double by Nathan McCorkle and an appeal ruled him out. After missing opportunities the last few games to put together a big inning, the Tigers finally did just that in the third thanks to a lot of help from Addison for the Blazers.

Gamble led off the inning by earning a walk from Addinson, but just as quickly he was erased on a pick-off by the right-hander. For the second of four times on the day Hulett earned a walk to bring Bell to the plate again with a runner on base. Due a break, Bell blooped a single into right field to put runners on first and second with one out. Following a Thomas walk to load the bases Jeroloman again left runners on with a strikeout to bring Sullivan to the plate.

Josh Sullivan

A dreadful team with the bases loaded this season, Auburn entered Tuesday's game just 5-32 (.156) with the bags full but one player that has been good in that category is Sullivan. He was 2-2 before Tuesday's at-bat and left 3-3 after launching a home run over the right field wall that cleared the bases and gave the Tigers a 5-1 advantage. The home run was his third of the season, but that wouldn't be enough though as the Blazers came back to tie the game with two runs in the third and then two more in the fifth. The two in the fifth came on a double by Jeremy Moran into center field off Shore that scored both Daniel Hill and McCorkle, but Madden put out the Blaze and kept the score tied at five.

Auburn came back to again answer in the sixth as Mayo led off the inning with a walk and Gamble followed with a bouncer into right field that moved Mayo all the way to third. Another walk to Hulett loaded the bases for Bell. The designated hitter crushed one into center field, but the ball was caught and both Mayo and Gamble tagged to make the at-bat worthwhile. Thomas then did more damage as he drilled a single into center field on a 3-0 count to score both Gamble and Hulett and give the Tigers an 8-5 lead.

Another McCorkle double in the bottom of the sixth drove home a run for the Blazers, but the Tigers would get the run back and one more in the seventh via the long ball. With one out in the inning Sain got the pitch he was looking for and drilled a long fly ball deep to right-center that just cleared the wall for a home run, the first of his career. Not to be outdone, Mayo hit a long home run to right field just moments later. Not only was it his first home run, but it was the first hit of his career and came in his hometown of Birmingham. Leading 10-6 the Tigers turned the game over to the bullpen hoping to maintain the lead.

The combination of Madden, Dennis and Dueitt would do just that, allowing just one run the rest of the way while striking out everything in sight. The trio struck out 13 of the last 14 UAB outs they recorded with Madden setting a career-high with seven strikeouts in the game. Auburn added three insurance runs in the ninth inning to make the final score 13-6 Tigers.

Box Score

Auburn travels to Knoxville this weekend to face the red hot Tennessee Vols in a three-game series. Game times for the weekend are 5:45 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday with a 12:45 start on Sunday.

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