Walk Off Home Run Gives Tigers The Series Sweep

Despite getting just five hits in the game, Auburn managed to pull out a victory over Hofstra thanks to a ninth inning home run.

Auburn, Ala.–-Junior Clete Thomas hit a game winning solo home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to lead the Auburn Tigers to a 6-5 victory over Hofstra in the final game of the series at Plainsman Park. The right fielder had the only two extra-base hits in a game that Auburn was outhit in 15-6, but managed to win.

"I was going up there just trying to make something happen," Thomas said. "The thought of bunting crossed my mind, just to try to get to second and let Josh Bell and Karl Amonite do it. I got to two strikes and just tried to put something in play, but he hung me a breaking ball. It was awesome, unbelievable. Not much can explain it.

"I felt good (today)," he added. "I worked in batting practice trying to slow myself down because I had been out in front of everything. I worked on trying to slow everything down and trying to hit to left field."

Clete Thomas races to first on a double in the first inning.

After tearing up Hofstra pitching for the first two games of the series, Auburn didn't hit as well on Sunday with just six hits and three coming from Thomas. Third baseman Adam Stacey had two hits for the Tigers with designated hitter Russell Dixon the only other Auburn player to get a base hit. Coach Tommy Slater said that he was proud of the way his team played even though the hits weren't falling.

"One of the things I was proud of with our hitters is that we played offense early in the game," Slater said. "We had put five runs up with only four or five hits. While we didn't have a lot of hits to show for our batting effort, what we did is produce runs. We played offense. We got our guys on, we moved them over with solid at-bats, and then we drove them in."

One of the negatives from Sunday's game was the struggle of starting pitcher Mike Felix. Expected to be the third man in Auburn's rotation, Felix lasted just three and one/third innings and gave up seven hits. The problem was an old one for the sophomore as he got behind early and had to fight to stay in the game. Slater said that's something they hope to remedy in the coming weeks.

"Mike was behind hitters early in the game, which meant his pitch count was elevated fairly early," Slater said. "That's not what we want. To be able to pitch deep into games and not tax your bullpen you've got to be able to pitch deep into games for us like Arnold Hughey did Friday night. Mike is a competitor. He'll bounce back. He's got a chance to be really good. We just have to keep working."

The Pride got the scoring started on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Plainsman Park. Felix walked the lead-off hitter Josh Stewart, but followed with a strikeout of Ricky Caputo. Deciding to get moving, Stewart stole second and then moved to third on a wild pitch. A ground ball to Phillip Stringer at short scored Stewart with the day's first run, but it would be the only lead of the day for Hofstra despite a strong pitching performance by starter Ryan Dunn.

Auburn actually got off to a good start on the day with a lead-off walk from Tyler Johnstone followed by a double from Thomas to right field to score him. Thomas then moved to third on a ground ball to third base from Bell and looked to be stranded when Amonite struck out swinging, but a wild pitch scored him to make it 2-1 Tigers after one inning.

The score would remain the same until the bottom of the third despite a challenge from the Pride in the second. Struggling with his control, Felix gave up two singles and a walk to Hofstra hitters before getting a fly ball from Caputo to end the inning. Despite leading 2-1, Felix had already thrown 41 pitches. Not the kind of outing Slater was looking for out of his third starter.

Leading off the bottom of the third, Johnstone walked and stole second to get into scoring position. He moved to third base just moments later on a Thomas fly out to center field to set the table for the catcher Bell. Jumping on the first pitch, Bell drilled a liner to right field that easily scored Johnstone to put Auburn up 3-1. Hofstra would again threaten in the fourth, putting two runners on before reliever Ted Bryant came on to get the final two outs of the inning to keep the lead at three.

Shortstop Phillip Stringer has been impressive in his first series with Auburn after transferring from Tulane.

The lead would grow in the fourth as Derek Sain led off the inning with a walk to give the Tigers some life. Playing left field for Auburn, Sain moved to second on a balk from Dunn and then to third base on a groundout by Russell Dixon. Third baseman Adam Stacey then came through once again on the weekend with a single to left that scored Sain and gave the Tigers a 4-1 advantage.

Single runs by Hofstra in both the fifth and sixth brought the lead back to just one, but again the Tigers answered thanks to some help from Pride pitchers. With one out in the sixth true freshman Dixon singled to right and Stacey followed with a single of his own to put runners on first and second. A walk to Phillip Stringer loaded the bases with just one out with Bruce Edwards at the plate. A wild pitch scored Dixon and moved both runners up, but Edwards would ground out to Walsh at first with the infield drawn in to keep the score the same. Following a Johnstone hit-by-pitch, Thomas flew out to center field to end the inning and keep Auburn's lead at just two 5-3.

Reliever John Madden came on to pitch a perfect seventh inning to set the plate for closer Mike Nix in the eighth. In his first outing of the year the Auburn native struggled to get anything going as Hofstra scored two runs in the inning on two hits and left the bases loaded when Oliveri flew out to Thomas to end the inning with the score tied at five. After the Tigers failed to score in the bottom of the inning, Nix came out and pitched a perfect ninth inning to set the stage for Thomas' dramatic game-winner.

Box Score

Auburn improves to 3-0 with the sweep of Hofstra while the Pride fall to 0-3. Next weekend the Tigers travel to Florida State for a three-game series with the Seminoles at Dick Howser Stadium.


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