Throwing a complete game shutout, Sullivan allowed just three hits and struck out nine on just 95 pitches for his third win of the season as the Tigers (14-5) demolished the Keydets from VMI (8-9) 12-0. The hard-throwing junior didn't walk a batter and faced just four over the minimum to record Auburn's first complete game of the season and first complete game shutout since Colby Paxton accomplished the feat against Clemson in the 2003 Auburn NCAA Regional. Slater said that Saturday was something special from his ever-improving Saturday starter.
"Chris Morrison threw a complete game, a 72 or 74 pitch effort, back in 1995 against Ole Miss," Slater said. "I don't remember a lot of other complete games with pitch counts under 100 other than ‘Mo's' in ‘95. It was just a commanding performance. Sitting in the dugout tonight was reminiscent of some of the arms we had here in 1997 with (Tim) Hudson and some of those guys where they would just go right through people."
Sullivan has now allowed just two earned runs in his last 15 2/3 innings and has struck out 14 batters.
Dominating late after struggling some early, Sullivan sat down VMI hitter after VMI hitter during the middle innings and allowed Auburn's offense to take control of the game. Following two hits in the first two innings, Sullivan retired 17-straight Keydets before giving up his third and final hit in the top of the eighth inning. Despite throwing 74 strikes and just 21 balls, he said that he wasn't sure the night was going to turn out very good following his warm-up in the bullpen.
"When I came out and was warming up in the bullpen I didn't feel like I had my good stuff today," Sullivan said. "Even in the first couple of innings I didn't feel like I had much life on my fastball, but starting about the fourth inning everything started to come together with my curveball and my slider. This is probably the first game that I've had both really on. I threw a few change-ups. The outcome was good I guess.
"It feels good (throwing a shutout)," he added. "I don't know if I've ever thrown one. Maybe a time or two in high school, which is seven innings. I've never thrown above seven innings, even this season. When I came out in the eighth or ninth my arm felt just as good or better than it did when I started the game."
Sullivan's performance overshadowed another brilliant game by first baseman Karl Amonite at the plate. Despite not getting great pitches to hit, he drove the ball the other way time and time again and finished with four hits in five at-bats to raise his batting average to .493 on the season. He also drove in three of Auburn's 12 runs to push his SEC-leading total to 29. Amonite said that despite his lack of power numbers recently he's getting the job done.
"Me and my teammates were talking in the dugout and I think the rumor is that I'm going for Ichiro's (Ichiro Suzuki) singles record instead of hitting the ball over the fence," Amonite said. "All the joking aside, we had a great game at the plate and got after it offensively. Sully did a heck of a job and pitched his guts out. We stole bases, the whole nine yards. We played ball out there today."
In addition to Amonite, Clete Thomas was also solid at the plate with two hits and three runs batted in. Tyler Johnstone, Russell Dixon and Adam Stacey all added two hits each as well as the Tigers pounded Keydet pitching for 15 hits and left just six runners on base.
Auburn got on the board in the second inning with a double from Ben Sprague and a Dixon single pushing across two early runs. The Tigers then broke the game open in the fifth inning thanks to the top of the order. Leading off the inning, Stacey doubled down the left field line to bring Johnstone to the plate. The second baseman came through with a single that put runners on the corners for Thomas.
While Thomas was hitting Johnstone stole second base and forced a bad throw from the catcher. That allowed Stacey to score from third for the inning's first run. Amonite followed with a double to left that scored both Johnstone and Thomas and put Auburn up 5-0. Two ground balls later and the lead was six as Joey Huskins pushed across Amonite with a groundout to second base.
The lead got pushed out to 10 in the sixth inning as Jeff Boutwell walked to lead things off and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. He later scored on an error by the VMI shortstop that allowed Stacey to advance to second base. After moving to third during an at-bat by Johnstone that ended in a walk, Stacey scored in front of him when Thomas tripled to right field. Another Amonite single scored Thomas and put Auburn up 10-0. Back-to-back run scoring singles by Johnstone and Thomas in the seventh inning put an end to the Tigers' scoring as they won going away 12-0.
Transfer Josh Blake gets the start for the Tigers on Sunday against right-hander Jimmy Thoms for VMI. Blake is 1-1 on the season with an ERA of 5.40 while Thoms is 3-0 and has an earned run average of 4.96.