"We came out in the first and make an error," Slater said. "We don't locate a couple of pitches and they put up a four spot. What I was very proud of was Mullins (Cliff Mullins) settling down after that and giving us three solid innings behind that. Our offense is confident that we're going to put runs on the board."
In his first career start Mullins gave up four runs in the first inning that included a three-run home run by catcher Josh Thompson. After that he settled down and finished the day allowing five runs on five hits in four complete innings of work. Josh Donaldson's first career outing went well as he gave up only one hit in two innings on Tuesday. Clarence Nicely earned the victory for the Tigers with a scoreless seventh inning. Junior Michael Nix closed things out by allowing just one hit over the final two innings for his first save.
"Mullins did a great job of throwing," Slater said. "Donaldson was very, very good in his first outing. Nicely had a great seventh inning. We kick a freaking ball to lead off that inning, which is terrible, and then Nicely decides he wants to throw it into right field picking from the stretch, which we never do. Credit Nicely for coming back and filling up the strike zone and getting a huge strikeout with the infield up. It was a very positive performance for all of our freshmen pitchers tonight. Then for Michael Nix to come in at the end and be that solid for six outs, we told him the eighth and ninth were his tonight and he did a great job of filling up the strike zone. He really had some dominating type stuff."
Karl Amonite is congratulated by his teammates at home plate after his home run in Tuesday's game.
In addition to Amonite's outstanding game the Tigers were led at the plate by catcher Josh Bell and center fielder Bruce Edwards, who both had two hits. For the season Edwards leads the Tigers in hitting and he said that he's getting more comfortable every day and gaining confidence with each passing at-bat.
"I'm feeling good about the improvement I made in the offseason and the hard work in the cages and during practice," Edwards said. "The coaches have helped me a lot with my swing and basically at the plate I just try to stay closed and use my hands and let the barrel do the work. Being in the nine hole I see a lot of good pitches and pitchers tend to underestimate the nine hole hitter. I'm getting a lot of good pitches and taking advantage of it. Whatever Coach Slater wants to use me at I'm more than willing. If the nine hole is where he wants to put me I'm going to be the best nine hole hitter in the SEC."
Trailing 4-0, Auburn finally got on the board in the third inning with center fielder Bruce Edwards igniting the offense. The sophomore singled with one out in the frame and quickly stole second to put himself into scoring position. Leadoff man Tyler Johnstone followed with a double off the wall in left field that easily scored Edwards to cut the lead to three. Following a Clete Thomas strikeout the Tigers added their second run of the inning when Josh Bell singled to left field. Although he was thrown out trying to advance to second, Auburn had cut into the lead with a more confident Mullins on the mound.
Settling in after giving up four in the first, Mullins was very good from that point forward. He didn't allow a run again until the fifth and by that time the Tigers had cut another run off the Bear lead thanks to Amonite. Leading off the fourth, Amonite went with a pitch on the outside corner from the left-hander Hunter Abercrombie and drove it deep over the wall for a solo home run. It was his fourth of the season and made it 4-3 Mercer heading to the fifth.
"Left on left is harder for me," Amonite said. "To stay back on an off-speed from a lefty is a little harder, but fortunately Coach Matt Myers worked on that with us in pre-game batting practice and we worked on that yesterday (Monday). Luckily for me that carried into the game."
Back out for the fifth inning Mullins surrendered a single to Billy Shaughnessy and he advanced to second on a wild pitch. Sean McCahill then delivered for the Bears with a single to center field that gave them a 5-3 advantage. Donaldson would come on and end the inning with help from Bell, who threw out two runners at second base in the inning.
The score remained the same until the bottom of the sixth when the Tigers struck again. This time it was the middle of the order that came through as Amonite doubled to start things off and scored on a Ben Sprague single to center field. Sprague moved to second on the throw to the plate trying to cut down Amonite and a single by Russell Dixon off the pitcher's leg moved him to third. Sprague eventually scored on a groundout by Adam Stacey to tie the game at five and set the stage for an exciting finish.
Auburn averted disaster in the top of the seventh inning thanks to some solid pitching by another true freshman Nicely. Shaughnessy again was a fly in the ointment for the Tigers, reaching on an error by Johnstone to lead off the inning. After moving to second on a failed pickoff attempt by Nicely at first, he moved to third on a groundout to Johnstone. With the pressure on Nicely came through with a strikeout and groundout to end the inning and give the Tigers the momentum to come away with the victory.
That happened in the bottom of the inning when Thomas walked with one out to set the table for the heart of the Tiger order. Bell followed with a single to left field off the glove off the shortstop Shaughnessy. Running on the pitch, Thomas moved all the way to third on the play. That proved to be huge for Auburn as Amonite lifted a high fly ball into deep right field that scored Thomas from third with the eventual game-winning run. Nix would finish off the Bears in the eighth and ninth to get his first save of the season. He said it was important to get a victory in this game heading into a weekend series with VCU.
"It's definitely a morale booster," Nix said. "You get a good win during the week and it sets the tone coming into a weekend series. A win is a win in my book. It doesn't matter who we're playing or by how much, a win is a win."