"He looked relaxed," Renfroe said of Bell. "The last three or four games he was tense and kind of pressing. Tonight you could tell (was different). He took a few pitches and was quick. We need that desperately."
Back on April 2 in Friday night's game against LSU, Bell had three hits and was riding high at the plate with a batting average of .316. Since that time the designated hitter/pitcher has dropped down over 40 points and came into Tuesday night's contest at .275. Bell said that his whole attitude at the plate changed with one at-bat and everything just kind of fell into place after that.
"The walk made me feel a lot better," Bell said his second inning walk. "I was starting to really relax and see the ball. I started to see the pitch before I tried to swing at it instead of swinging at the pitch before I saw it. Life is kind of funny. Sometimes you have to get down real low before you figure stuff out. It's just kind of funny like that."
Bell's performance overshadowed an outstanding performance on the mound by a trio of Tigers. Starter Mike Felix and relievers Jared Shore and Cory Dueitt combined to allow South Alabama just two hits on the night while striking out six Jaguar hitters. Perhaps the most impressive thing was the Tigers didn't issue a walk the entire game. That had Renfroe excited about what he saw out of his pitchers.
"I thought Mike was real good," Renfroe said. "He was on a strict pitch count. We were going to let him go and bump Josh up to Friday, but Josh is still weak and we weren't sure he could be ready for Friday. Jared Shore was very, very good. That was a big lift because you know how it is when you have to run a gun in every inning and try to piece it together. I thought Cory was good. I thought that looked like the old Cory and that's a good sign."
Using a makeshift lineup with shortstop Chuck Jeroloman taking the night off, the Tigers came out to get some revenge after losing a heartbreaker in Mobile last week. It didn't take long to get on the board as Auburn struck for a run in the first inning. Right fielder Ben Sprague led off the inning with a double to right field. After moving to second on a groundout by Sean Gamble, Sprague scored just moments later on a long sacrifice fly to right field by shortstop Tug Hulett.
Auburn would add to its lead in the fourth inning thanks to some shaky defense by the Jaguars. Bell led off the inning with a hard single to left, a good sign for the Tigers. First baseman Derek Sain was up next and he hit a slow roller to first that Adam Lind couldn't find a handle on, putting runners on first and second. Catcher Josh Sullivan followed with a single to left that easily scored Bell. USA's Quendon Montgomery booted the ball in the process, allowing Sain to move all the way around to third on the hit. A sacrifice fly from Kyle Mayo to score Sain put an end to the inning with Auburn ahead 3-0.
With Shore cruising on the mound in relief of Felix, having given up just one hit, the Tigers came back for more in the bottom of the fifth. The red-hot Gamble starting things off with a walk and quickly moved around to third base on a single by Hulett into right field. Clete Thomas was next up in the hit parade as he drilled a sharp single off the glove of shortstop Guillermo Martinez to put runners on first and second.
Bell collected his second hit of the night with a single to right center that scored Hulett and Thomas while he advanced to second base on an error by center fielder Clark Secchiari. Sain and Sullivan both singled to score a run with the final run of the inning scoring on a Mayo double play ball later in the inning. Before the rally was done the Tigers would add four runs and take a 7-0 lead into the sixth.
The lead expanded in the sixth as the middle of the order did the damage once again. With two outs and nobody on Hulett walked to bring Thomas to the plate. The left-hander sliced a fly ball down the left field line that Montgomery made a diving play for, but came up empty-handed. The ball rolled behind him allowing Hulett to score and Thomas to advance to second. That gave Bell the opportunity to add to his team leading RBI total with a single to left. Leading 9-0 Auburn turned the ball over to Dueitt and he made the lead stand with two perfect innings of relief in the seventh and eighth innings. The Tigers put an end to the game in the bottom of the inning when a Sain sacrifice fly scored Thomas to make it 10-0 Auburn. It was the first shutout by Auburn of South Alabama in series history.
Auburn returns to action this weekend when they face the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times are 6:30 p.m. on Friday night, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.