Bell Powers Tigers To Victory Over Trojans

Auburn, Ala.–-Junior catcher Josh Bell had two hits and a career-high five runs batted in as the Auburn Tigers (9-2) defeated the Troy Trojans 12-2 Tuesday at Plainsman Park.

Four Tiger pitchers combined to allow just six hits as sophomore Grant Cardwell picked up the win, allowing just two hits in three and one/third innings to earn his first career victory. Coach Tommy Slater said the pitching performance was just what he was hoping for in a mid-week game against a very capable Troy team.

"Grant Cardwell in particular, he's a guy that hasn't been on the mound for us yet but works extremely hard in practice," Slater said. "I told him I was extremely proud of him afterwards. He's a very, very hard working kid, he just hasn't had the opportunity to pitch yet. Tonight he goes out and throws strikes. You fill up the strike zone and good things happen. We played good defense behind him and he commanded the strike zone, which is what we ask these guys to do."

For Josh Bell it was a game of redemption as several times already this season first baseman Karl Amonite had been pitched around without fear of the bottom of the Auburn order. Tuesday night that happened as well and Bell made Troy pay with two hits, including a three-run double in the sixth that put the game away.

Josh Bell rounds first base.

"Me and coach Karl Nonemaker came out today and had early hitting," Bell said. "We really worked on having my hands real loose. This past weekend I wasn't recognizing pitches because I was so uptight. Tonight I was really loose and saw the ball well. I was glad I was able to finally come through and get some RBI for our team.

"They wanted to pitch to me and I take that as a challenge that I can't hit that good," Bell added. "It's just some added pressure and I like it. Hopefully I can keep it up throughout the year and put up some good numbers to help us win."

Auburn took the lead in the first against the Trojans with Clete Thomas putting some life into the large mid-week crowd with a one-out triple into left field. Capitalizing on yet another RBI opportunity, first baseman Amonite ripped a single up the middle to score Thomas and put the Tigers on the board against heralded starting pitcher Tony Falls for the Trojans. Falls lasted just two innings, allowing five runs on five hits.

Troy came back to take the lead in the top of the second as Henry Gutierrez doubled to lead off the first against Mullins and later advanced to third on an attempted pick-off by Bell from the plate. Following a Blake Green walk, third baseman Jared Keel ripped a double that scored both runners and gave the Trojans the early advantage. That would be it the rest of the way though as it was all Auburn.

Pitcher Cliff Mullins earned the start for the Tigers on Tuesday.

The Tigers grabbed the lead back from Troy in the bottom of the second thanks to some two out magic from the bottom of the order. True freshman third baseman Josh Donaldson led off things with a laser off the left field wall for a double to put Auburn in business with two outs. Center field Bruce Edwards followed with a walk to bring the top of the order back to the plate. Second baseman Tyler Johnstone delivered, looping a double down the right field line that scored both runners and gave the Tigers back the lead. Following back-to-back walks to Thomas and Amonite, catcher Josh Bell closed out the inning with a single just out of the reach of the Troy shortstop that scored Johnstone and Thomas and put Auburn ahead 5-2.

For the third inning in a row the Tigers made poor play by the Trojans pay off for a run. In the bottom of the third Russell Dixon led off the inning and was hit in the head by a pitch. Just dazed for a moment, he remained in the game and appeared to be picked off first base on a steal attempt, but an errant throw to second allowed him to advance into scoring position. That proved to be important as one out later pinch hitter Ben Sprague singled to right field to score Dixon and give Auburn a 6-2 lead.

Bell was back at it in the sixth inning as he once again had to pick up the offensive load with the Trojans pitching around Amonite. With runners on second and third and two outs, smartly Troy pitched around the big first baseman and made Bell do the damage. He did just that, ripping a double just inside the third base bag that scored all three runners and put the Tigers up 9-2. An Edwards double drove home the final Auburn run in the seventh as the Tigers went on to the easy victory.

Box Score

The Tigers return to action this weekend for a three-game series against Elon at Plainsman Park. Game times are 4 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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