It appears that he made the correct decision, as Sullivan got his first start in two years for the Tigers in their second game of the season and pitched very well in a 11-3 Auburn win over the Hofstra at Plainsman Park on Saturday evening.
Sullivan, who had a one inning spot start against South Alabama in 2003, went four innings and only gave up two runs on five hits and one walk in a win that pushed the Tigers to the 2-0 mark for the 2005 season.
Freshman Cliff Mullins from Fairhope took over for Sullivan in the fifth inning and got the win. Mullins also pitched well. In his Auburn debut, he gave up only an unearned run on two hits and one walk in 2 1/3 innings.
Following Mullins was John Madden, who didn't give up a hit or a run and only one walk in 2 2/3 innings of work to earn his first save of the season.
"In his first start he gave us four solid innings and it was time to get him out," Auburn head coach Tom Slater said about Sullivan. "Cliff Mullins did an outstanding job as a freshman coming in and throwing in the middle of the game. Then, Madden did what we asked him to do, which was come in and get some ground balls and finish this thing out."
The Tigers got the scoring started in the third as Bruce Edwards, who also started his Auburn career on the football field (as a wide receiver), singled to right to lead off the inning and then stole second base.
Tyler Johnstone then dropped a bloop single into right that advanced Edwards to third. Next, Clete Thomas hit a long sacrifice fly to center field that gave Auburn a 1-0 lead. That was all of the offense the Tigers could muster after having runners on the corners with no outs.
Hofstra wasted no time in striking back as Josh Stern singled to right with one out and then, Walsh ripped a double to the wall in left that scored the runner on a hit and run play to tie the game at 1-1.
After Walsh's double, Sullivan got into some trouble as he walked Matt Kougasian to put runners on first and second with only one out. On the next pitch Sullivan hit George Athanasopoulos to load the bases and Steve Olivari ripped a single to center that scored the second run of the inning and left the bases loaded.
Despite the trouble, Sullivan found his groove and averted a monster inning by striking out Pride second baseman Andy Campana and getting Brett Stambolian to fly out to center to end the threat.
Slater said that Sullivan being able to work his way out of trouble in the third was a big key to the Tigers' win. "He did limit the damage and I think everybody can see that Josh has got the type of arm that he can pitch himself out of trouble," the coach noted. "He got a couple of strikeouts in key situations and he threw some really good breaking balls in key situations, too. He has got a chance to be really good and I was real proud of him to go out there in his first start ever show some composure and get it done for us."
The Tigers tied the game right back in the bottom half of the inning. Left fielder Jeff Boutwell drew a walk to leadoff the inning and Russell Dixon ripped a first pitch double to the gap in left center that drove Boutwell in and tied the game at 2-2.
That was not all for the Tigers in the fourth, however. Following Dixon's double, Stacey flied out to center for the first out of the inning, but Phillip Stringer followed Dixon's left center gap shot with one of his own that he stretched into a triple and put the Tigers ahead 3-2. Then, Edwards legged out an infield single at first that the Pride's shortstop overthrew and that allowed Stringer to score from third on the error to give Auburn a 4-2 advantage.
Slater also explained that being able to respond to a good inning by your opponent is something that he strongly believes in doing. "The sign of a good offensive team is one that answers," he said. "I think if you look at the scoreboard they put up a two spot and we came back and answered with a three spot. Good teams do that. When you can answer someone after they have put up some runs that is the mark of a solid offensive club."
Karl Amonite continued the scoring for the Tigers as he followed up his home run in game one of the series with another blast in the fifth inning of game two to push the lead to three. After Josh Bell walked and then got thrown out on a bad decision to try and steal second on a ball that barely got away from the catcher, Amonite got a pitch inside that he liked and sent his second shot of the year out over the K-Corner in right field.
Slater said that it is surprising how well Amonite is hitting the ball coming off of a redshirt season and a very light fall offensive workout schedule. "Karl, because of his injury and because of how cautious we were being with him because of that injury, didn't get a lot of cage work," he noted. "The boy can just hit. We all laugh and shake our heads--here is a guy that doesn't do a lot of extra work in the cages. He did a lot of extra work defensively, but I think Karl could fall out of the bed and hit."
Hofstra added a run in the seventh to pull within two at 5-3. However, the Tigers added six insurance runs in the eighth on some timely hitting and a couple of Hofstra throwing errors to put the game out of reach.
: For Hofstra David Huth got the start and went 4 1/3 innings giving up five earned runs on six hits and three walks. Patrick Rogers pitched 3 1/3 innings of relief and surrendered five earned runs on four hits and two walks as well.
Dixon led the Tigers at the plate going 3-5 with two RBI and a run scored. Amonite went 2-3 with two RBI, two walks and scored a run and Edwards added two hits and scored two runs.
For Hofstra, Walsh led the way going 1-3 with an RBI and extended a hitting streak that dates back to last season to 15 games. Olivari added a hit and an RBI and Stern added a hit and scored a run for the Pride in the loss.
The Tigers will be looking for the three-game sweep as they return to action at noon on Sunday for the final game of the series against the Hofstra Pride. Sophomore left-hander Mike Felix, who was 4-5 last seasonwith a 4.52 earned run average, is scheduled to start on the mound for the Tigers.