After missing the entire 2004 season with an injured elbow, Amonite had a strong fall and pre-season this spring as he got ready for a return to the lineup. He didn't waste any time as he homered in his first at-bat to set the tone for the day as Auburn pounded out 18 hits in the victory. He said that he was just glad to be able to get back on the field again and play in front of the Auburn crowd.
"First of all I want to say it's great to be back on the field and the Auburn fans are great," Amonite said. "I wasn't trying to do anything special. Luckily I got a hittable pitch and it went out for me. That was good. There's nothing like the Auburn atmosphere. When you're up at the plate the hits are going to fall for you. It's just great to be back on the field."
In addition to Amonite, second baseman Tyler Johnston also sat out the 2004 season with an injury. He made his Auburn debut as a lead-off hitter on Friday and was outstanding. Johnstone went 4-6 with four runs scored and two runs batted in. He was part of a top four in the order that accounted for 11 of Auburn's hits and 13 RBI. Coach Tommy Slater said that his team played very well in all phases of the game, especially on offense with Johnstone setting the table.
"Tyler is really the sparkplug for our offense," Slater said. "He does a tremendous job at the top of the order. In addition to the stolen base and the hits, he really read dirt balls very well. I was really proud of the way we ran the bases as a team. We got a lot of extra bases tonight by reading. Our guys ran the bases effectively and obviously Tyler at the top was a real spark. Then to see Karl come out and hit a home run in his first at-bat is very exciting to see. I'm more proud of Karl for the way he played defensively. He did a real good job over there and made some good plays."
It didn't take long for the injured Tigers to make their presence felt in the first inning. Following a solid first by Hughey, Johnstone led off the bottom half of the inning with a sharp single to left field. He then stole second base to set the plate for the middle of Auburn's order. Following a Clete Thomas strikeout, catcher Josh Bell walked to bring Amonite to the plate for the first time in over a year. So much for rust. The senior lifted a breaking ball high over the right field wall for his first home run of the season to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead and put a smile on everyone's face.
Amonite bombs a home run over the K Korner in right field.
Auburn wasn't done in the first though as junior college transfer Jeff Boutwell singled to bring true freshman Russell Dixon to the plate. Strong enough at the plate in the fall and spring to earn the starting DH role, Dixon showed why he's in the lineup with a triple to the right-center field gap to score Boutwell. A single by Adam Stacey rounded out the scoring as Dixon crossed to make it 5-0 Tigers after just one inning of play.
That would be enough for Hughey as the senior cruised through the next three innings by allowing just one hit and one walk. Both were erased as he faced the minimum through four innings to give his team a chance to blow it open, which they did in the bottom of the fourth. Shortstop Phillip Stringer led off the inning with a walk and was caught stealing with Bruce Edwards at the plate. Edwards followed with a walk as well to bring Johnstone back to the plate. He continued his hot start with another sharp single to put runners on first and second for Thomas.
"I had a lot of emotion and adrenaline going early, but after I got that first hit I calmed down a lot and enjoyed the game," Johnstone added. "I'm just trying to get on base so those guys behind me can drive me in. Whatever it takes. I'll walk, get hit by a pitch, bunt, singles, doubles, whatever it takes. Just put the ball in play mostly so they have an opportunity to score me."
Johnstone steals second base, one of his two on the day.
Struggling early, Thomas lifted a fly ball to right field that pushed Edwards to third. Johnstone then moved to second on a wild pitch to set up Bell with a great RBI opportunity. The junior delivered with a line single to left to score both runners. He moved to second on the throw to the plate and scored just seconds later when Amonite singled to right field for his second hit of the day. Both Boutwell and Dixon walked to bring Stacey back to the plate. He again came through with a hit, a single to center, to score both and give Auburn a commanding 10-0 lead heading to the fifth.
Auburn added some insurance runs in the fifth thanks to the speed at the top of the order. Acting in the role of a lead-off hitter, Edwards reached on an error by first baseman Brett Stambolian and advanced to second when the ball bounced away and towards the right field wall. Johnstone got his third hit of the day when he singled home Edwards. He advanced to second on the throw home and scored when Thomas got his first hit of the game, a single to left. Showing his aggressive attitude, Thomas stole second and moved to third on a fly out to left by Bell. Amonite's fly ball to left scored him with Auburn's 13th run of the day.
Hofstra would get to Hughey in the sixth inning, scoring four runs on just three hits. Two Auburn errors contributed to three runs that scored on a Ricky Caputo triple to right-center field. Reliever Jared Shore came on and gave up a RBI single as well, but shut down the Pride the rest of the way. Hughey gave up just three hits and no earned runs in five and two/thirds innings Friday night. Shore allowed four hits and one unearned run as he closed the door the final three and one/thirds.
Auburn added a single run in the sixth and four more in the eighth to run away with the game in the end. The big hit came on a two-run double by Thomas to center field. He finished with two hits while Bell had three hits and three runs batted in. Stacey also had three hits for the Tigers as everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit on the day.
Auburn returns to action Saturday at 4 p.m. when they take on Hofstra in the second game of the series. Former Auburn quarterback Josh Sullivan will be the Tigers' starting pitcher for the game that follows Auburn's basketball game with Mississippi State.