Improving his record to 6-1 on the season, Hughey threw just 112 pitches and went to three balls just twice against Alabama, one each in the eighth and ninth innings. The left-hander held the middle of the Crimson Tide order hitless on the day, a combined 0-15. Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said that it was definitely a memorable performance in a key game for the Tigers.
"He was dominant," Renfroe said. "That's all you can say. In the third, when he found his slider, and then right after that the change-up. Once he got that going we just thought he could take it the rest of the way. He wasn't taking many pitches early and he got rolling. That was big for us and I thought he was very dominant.
"We lost two at home (to Kentucky) and this helps get that back to even," Renfroe added. "Anytime you win on the road it's special no matter where it is because it's such a tough league. Each series is precious."
Arnold Hughey throws a pitch against Alabama on Saturday.
The Tigers got on the board first against lefty Brandon Belcher with Derek Sain starting things off in the third inning. The sophomore singled to right field to get things going and following a Kyle Mayo strikeout, Ben Sprague walked to put runners on first and second. Sean Gamble continued his hot hitting with a single up the middle to score Sain with the game's first run.
Auburn kept the inning going as Chuck Jeroloman walked to load the bases. Tug Hulett then made a play only a veteran will make. Down 0-2 in the count and seeing third baseman Evan Bush back up in the hole, Hulett just stuck his bat out and dribbled a slow roller towards third base. Catching the ball on the run, Bush threw low to first base to force Zac Welch off the bag. The play scored Sprague from third to put Auburn up 2-0. A walk to Josh Bell forced home Gamble and just like that Auburn was ahead 3-0, but the Crimson Tide would get one back in the bottom of the inning.
"We've been struggling to score runs," Gamble said. "We knew if we could score some runs, with the way our pitchers have been throwing, it's big. They haven't given up many runs. The times they get up there and throw good we need to score just a few runs to get the win."
Hitless for the first two innings, Alabama got its first hit of the day when Allen Rice singled and Michael McCallister followed with a single of his own to put a runner in scoring position. Hughey caught Rice sleeping, getting him in a rundown before Mayo tagged him for the second out of the inning. The play proved to be big as lead-off man Rocky Scelfo singled to center field to score McCallister just ahead of the throw. That's all Alabama would manage the rest of the way as Hughey shut the door on Alabama's offense.
The true definition of manufactured run came in the fifth inning when Sprague walked to lead off the inning. He moved to second during Gamble's at-bat on Belcher's second balk of the day and a fly ball by Gamble to center field moved him to third. Sprague has been heads-up on the base paths all season and he showed that again on Saturday. Swinging at strike three in the dirt, Jeroloman broke for first base with the ball bouncing off Richardson towards the mound. Seeing the play in front of him, Sprague sprinted for home and made it without a play to put Auburn ahead 4-1.
Looking some insurance, Auburn built onto its lead in the sixth inning thanks to Friday night's hero. With one out in the inning Belcher walked Thomas and Sullivan in back-to-back at-bats to put an end to his day and bring on reliever Matt Downs, who was the designated hitter for the Crimson Tide on Saturday. That didn't matter to Mayo as he drilled a double into left-center to score both Thomas and Sullivan to build the lead to five. A Sain single in the eighth scored Thomas from second, following a double, to make it 7-1 Auburn.
From there Hughey would take it home for the Tigers. With Sunday's starter Bell sent back to the team hotel because of nausea and closer Steven Register shelved for Saturday because of his extensive work on Friday night, Hughey said he knew that this was his chance to take on the distance and that's what he did.
"I knew I had to try to stay in there as long as I could and find something that was working," Hughey said. "Later in the game I started finding more pitches and my location was a little bit better. Early it was really just a fastball and I had to go with that. Later it was more my cutter and my change-up. I found all three pitches and was able to work with all of them.
"I wanted the complete game after yesterday using up Reggie," Hughey added. "I knew he wasn't going to be here today. We've got other guys in the pen, but we'll have everyone tomorrow. We want to beat these guys. Now we'll have all our arms ready to go get them."
Auburn goes for the sweep against Alabama on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. with Bell the scheduled starter against Taylor Tankersley for the Crimson Tide. If Bell is unable to go then either Cory Dueitt or Chris Dennis would get the start.