For Sullivan the game marked the third-straight outing that he has gone into the seventh inning. He threw 99 pitches and struck out five Clemson batters. The victory improves his record to 2-1 on the season. Slater said that Sullivan keeps getting better with every outing he has and Saturday was another great performance.
"Every time he takes the mound you can see him getting better," Slater said. "I really believe he's got a real bright future in this game. I think he's going to play for a long, long time. He's got great stuff, but the kid is a competitor. He loves to compete. He's not afraid of anything. He wants the ball. Those are the guys that succeed for you and he's doing a great job."
Josh Sullivan is consistently throwing in the 90 MPH range this season.
For Sprague the road to success has been a tough one. A player Slater describes as the second-best player on Auburn's team in terms of baseball tools (running, throwing, hitting), Sprague struggled all fall to get things going. All it took was a meeting at the end of fall camp to change his outlook and the results have been good for the Tigers. Sprague has cemented himself in the line-up in left field and Saturday his big home run gave Auburn the breathing room needed to pull out the victory.
"My first pitch I was supposed to sacrifice bunt, push bunt, but he threw me an outside curveball and I just let it go," Slater said. "On the second pitch I figured I was going to bunt again, but coach gave me the hit sign and I just wanted to hit a hard ground ball. It ended up going out. You were just as shocked as I was.
"I have seeing the ball well, but there have been some balls that I've been pulling out in and I should be hitting line drives. All in all I'm feeling better about my swing. It's so much easier knowing I'm in the lineup and not having to worry about coming in the game late. It has boosted my confidence even more. Now that I'm hitting the ball good hopefully I'll be able to stay there and help the team out."
After stranding seven runners in the first three innings Auburn put it all together in the bottom of the fourth to give Sullivan the run support he needed. Ahead 2-0 on two Josh Bell RBI singles in the first and third inning, Auburn was looking for more in the fourth. Leading off, Tyler Johnstone doubled into right field to put the offense in business and Bruce Edwards followed with a single of his own to put runners on the corners with nobody out. After Edwards swiped second base, Clete Thomas drew a walk to bring Karl Amonite to the plate. The big hitter again delivered with a single to right field that scored both Johnstone and Edwards to put Auburn up 4-0.
The damage wasn't done though as Sprague's moment was fast approaching. Following a Bell pop out to the shortstop the left fielder came to the plate looking to blow the game open. Using a strong gusting wind to his advantage, Sprague got a ball up into the jet stream and bombed it over the monster in left field for his first home run of the season. The shot gave Auburn a 7-0 lead and Sullivan went out to make it stand up.
The big right-hander shut down Clemson in both the fifth and sixth innings, but the visiting Tigers would make things interesting late. In the seventh inning Sullivan walked Tyler Colvin to lead off the inning and things went downhill from there. Following a strikeout Jesse Ferguson singled down the left field line to put runners on first and second. Both promptly moved up on a wild pitch from Sullivan and it proved to be important as a groundout to Adam Stacey deep in the hole scored Colvin for Clemson's first run. A single by Stan Widman then scored Ferguson to cut the lead to 7-2.
The lead would shrink to just three in the eighth inning on a two run home run by Travis Storrer following a Taylor Harbin single, but reliever Michael Nix came on to shut the door on the visitors and earn his fourth save of the season in the victory. Auburn added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning on a pinch-hit single by Josh Donaldson to add its eighth and final run of the game.
Auburn pounded out 17 hits against Clemson pitching with Amonite and Edwards both getting three. Sprague, Johnstone, Thomas and Bell all added two hits each for the Tigers on a night when they left 12 more runners on base, but did enough for the victory. Clemson was led at the plate by Harbin and Widmann, both of whom had three hits.
Auburn goes for the sweep Sunday at 1 p.m. when it sends Josh Blake to the mound against Clemson.