"It was a tough one to come out Sunday," Amonite said. "We were a little tired, but we played through it and the pitchers threw well. I was looking away the whole time today. They had been pitching me away consistently for the last two games of the series. I did what I had to and looked the other way. Fortunately I got a couple of hits out of it."
On a day when the Tigers mounted few serious scoring outburts, the offense came from a variety of places. Center fielder Bruce Edwards had three hits on the day along with Amonite and both Tyler Johnstone and Russell Dixon added two. Even with that it took some manufacturing of runs for the Tigers to earn the victory, something that coach Tommy Slater said he was glad to see his Auburn team execute.
"I thought we played offense tremendously well," Slater said. "We had some opportunities there, a first and third situation. We show bunt, a safety bunt, and he doesn't do it. It was stupid of me. I should have ran on the two-two pitch with Dixon on first, even though Dixon is not a great runner. We hit into a double play there. If I start the runner there we at least have an opportunity to score the run, but credit VCU. They did a good job today, but I thought our guys did a good job today of playing offense when we needed to and manufacturing the runs we needed to win."
Karl Amonite has been dominant at the plate for the Tigers to start the 2005 season.
On the mound Auburn starter Josh Blake struggled some in his second outing of the season. On a strict pitch count, he allowed four earned runs in three and two/thirds innings and six hits in the process. Reliever Jared Shore gave up three hits in two innings while fellow bullpen ace John Madden picked up the victory, pitching one and one/thirds innings of perfect baseball. Michael Nix earned the save by pitching the final two innings. It was hit third save of the season.
"I had the easy job today," Madden said. "Blake came out and he was on a count. He did what he had to do. He got us to the fourth. Shore came in and did his job like always. I went in there for an inning and an out, and Nix came in and shut the door. I really didn't do too much today. It was all up to the other guys."
Unlike the first two games of the series it was VCU that got off to the early lead on Sunday. Leadoff man Joe Meador singled to open the game and shortstop Sergio Miranda followed suit with a single of his own to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Following a line out to third base, the Rams would get on the board on a double steal with Meador crossing the plate for the 1-0 lead.
Auburn answered back in the bottom of the first inning with Amonite providing the punch again for his club. Johnstone led off the inning with a walk, but was caught stealing on a very close play at second base. Following a Clete Thomas flyout to the warning track in right field, Amonite doubled into the left field corner to get into scoring position for designated hitter Dixon. The true freshman came through with a sharp single to center that scored Amonite to tie the score early.
The Tigers extended the lead in the bottom of the second as third baseman Adam Stacey earned a walk to leadoff the inning and shortstop Phillip Stringer was hit by a pitch to put a runner in scoring position. Catcher Mike Hyntka put down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners over to set the table for Edwards. The center fielder hit a line drive just past the shortstop for a single that scored Stacey and give Auburn a 2-1 lead. Edwards was thrown out trying to steal second for the second out of the inning, but a Johnstone single pushed Stringer across for a two-run advantage for the Tigers.
The Rams answered back in the fourth with a three-run outburst that gave them their only lead of the day. Second baseman Scott Sizemore doubled down the left field line to open the inning only to be followed by Alex Gary with a double of his own. The play scored Sizemore and Gary moved to third on an error by Johnstone when he interfered with the Gary rounding second base. A Pete Farina groundout to Johnstone scored Gary just moments later to tie the game. Trai Harris then singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. He would eventually score to give the Rams the lead, but it would be short lived.
Continuing to get on base despite his less than stellar batting average, Stringer led off the fourth by reaching on an error by the Ram third baseman. This season Stringer's on-base percentage is well over .500 despite a batting average just over .250. Hyntka then came through again with another sacrifice bunt to move Stringer into scoring position for Edwards. The former wide receiver lofted a shallow single into left field that the VCU fielder booted to allow Stringer to score and tie the game once again, this time at four.
Pitching would dominate the next two innings with Shore and Madden doing their thing for the Tigers. In the seventh Johnstone again got things started with a single up the middle with one out. After moving to second on a balk, Johnstone reached third on a sharp single by Thomas to center field. Amonite then once again put a charge into things, lifting a fly ball high off the wall in left field for his third double of the day. That put Auburn back in front 5-4 and runners on second and third. Following an intentional walk to Dixon to load the bases, pinch-hitter Derek Sain flew out deep to right field to easily score Thomas with the sixth run of the day.
Nix came on in the eighth and had to survive a scare as the Rams doubled to right field to start the inning and the runner advanced to third with just one out. That's when the excitement began. Playing a shallow right field, Thomas dropped a fly ball in foul territory that would have likely scored the runner from third. The next pitch resulted in a shallower fly ball to Thomas that failed to score the runner. Sain put an end to the inning and ultimately the game when he made a sliding grab in left center for the final out of the eighth. The Tigers went on to earn the 6-4 victory and the sweep.
Auburn gets back to action Tuesday when it takes on Troy at 4 p.m. at Plainsman Park.