"It was not a very productive offensive night," Auburn head coach Tom Slater said. "16 hits and only four runs--one thing we have been good at all year has been our productive offense. We have been scoring runs without always having the high hit totals and then tonight we weren't able to do that. We left 16 on base and we need to do a better job of being productive on the offensive end."
Those missed opportunities began early on as the Tigers appeared to get off to a hot start at the plate as the first three hitters reached base safely to load the bases in the first inning. However, Auburn was not able to capitalize as consecutive strikeouts by Josh Bell and Russell Dixon and a pop-out to second by Adam Stacey ended the inning with the bases still juiced.
Elon didn't waste any time taking advantage of the Tigers' lost opportunity at the plate as they plated two runs in the top of the second to take an early lead. After Drew Davis led off the inning with a single to left center, John Walker ripped a shot down the first base line and just by Karl Amonite to put runners on first and second. Then, Paul Bennett placed a two-run double into right center that popped in and out of the glove of Bruce Edwards. However, after Bennett reached third on a wild pitch with no one out, Sullivan was able to get out of the inning with out any more damage as sat down the next three Phoenix hitters.
Auburn did score a run in the third to make it a one run game, but again came away empty handed after loading the bases in the inning with only one out.
Thomas led off with a single and Amonite struck out, but then a throwing error on Phoenix starting pitcher Matt McSwain allowed Thomas to reach third. Bell singled to center on the next pitch to drive in Thomas and then Dixon and Stacey each singled to load the bases. However, déjà vu struck when Huskins popped out to second and Jay Osborne struck out to retire the side.
In the fourth Auburn was finally able to take advantage of a bases loaded situation as Karl Amonite hit a two-run double into left with no one out to drive in Edwards, who led off the inning with a walk, and Johnstone, who reached on an error. Thomas, who had walked to load the bases, advanced to third and was then driven in by Bell, who hit a shot up the middle to give the Tigers a 4-2 lead.
That lead didn't last long, however, as Elon struck back for three runs of their own in the fifth.
Stuart Bost reached on an error to lead off and a single by centerfielder Ryan Radford put runners at first and second. After both advanced on a wild pitch, Gary Morris walked to load the bases and Matt Hill ripped a hard double down the line in left driving in two runs and leaving runners at second and third. Hill then scored on a ground out by Danny Miller to make the score 5-4 before Sullivan could retire the side.
The Phoenix added another run in the seventh to take a 6-4 lead. Morris singled to lead off, stole second although it looked like he was thrown out by Bell, and reached third on a wild pitch. Then, with one out Miller hit a little looper that was just off the top of Johnstone's glove at second to drive in Morris.
Josh Sullivan brought his 1-0 record and 1.69 ERA to the mound for the Tigers in his fourth start of the season. He gave the Tigers' seven full innings of work, which ties the longest outing of his career, giving up six runs, five of them earned, on five hits and a walk. Sullivan also struck out six Elon hitters and threw 102 pitches, which is the most of his career.
"Josh was a stud for us once again tonight," Slater explained about Sullivan's outing. "He was very, very good. We sent him back out there for the seventh and he was still throwing 92 miles per hour at pitch 90. I told him we would go to 105 tonight. He just keeps getting stronger and stronger every outing."
Jared Shore threw two scoreless innings in relief of Sullivan and gave up only one hit and struck out two.
McSwain got the start for Elon and went 6 1/3 innings giving up only four runs, three of them earned, on 14 hits and three walks. The sophomore righty struck out six Auburn hitters.
Slater said that he was very impressed with McSwain's ability to stay out of trouble despite giving up a number of hits. "He gives up 14 hits, but he did a nice job of pitching to us," the coach explained. "He is there best guy and they wanted to pitch him in game two. He is a prospect and you have got to credit him. I thought we had good at bats against him, but when it came time for him to reach back and get a little bit more, he got it."
Sophomore lefty Grorge Blystone, junior righty Kevin Regan and junior righty Chad Tilly split the relief effort for the Phoenix combining for 2 2/3 scoreless innings of work and giving up only two hits.
One bright note for the Tigers was that Joey Huskins, who broke his hand during winter workouts, got his second start of the season on Saturday and got his first career hit at Auburn. Leading off the second inning the left fielder hit a sharp single left center.
Thomas led the Tigers at the plate going 3-5 with two runs scored. Amonite was 2-4 with two RBI and Bell was 2-5 with two RBI. Edwards also went 2-4 and scored a run.
Hill, Miller and Bennett each had one hit and two RBI for the Phoenix in the victory. Walker added 2 hits and scored a run.
The Tigers will return to action for the final game of the series against Elon on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Josh Blake will get the start for Auburn in the rubber match of the three game set.