"I was proud of Blake," Slater said. "He gave us five quality innings. The fastball and the change-up were working well today. The cutter is still not working real good. We have to get him a better breaking ball so he can have a three-pitch repertoire. We have to get that going.
"Madden was very good cleaning it up for us in the sixth and seventh. We had told Nix that he was going to be in at least a six-out role today having not pitched all weekend. I know those kids real well and they're scrappy and they're tough, but Michael Nix at 90-92 (MPH) is going to beat their bats. That's what he did."
Michael Nix closed Sunday's game.
Blake allowed five hits and two runs in five and one/thirds innings to pick up his second win of the season against just one loss. Blake struck out just one hitter, but was around the strike zone and threw just 54 pitches before Madden come on in the sixth. Madden gave up one hit and one run in one and two/thirds innings while Nix gave up just one hit in two innings while striking out four.
"I had a long drought and it gets kind of frustrating being in the dugout," Nix said. "It takes a lot to get loose. When you get out there you just throw the baseball. All weekend long the fastball was beating their bats. I have a plus fastball so you make sure you get ahead in the count and they'll swing at just about anything. I elevated the fastball late in the count and luckily they were swinging through it."
At the plate Clete Thomas led the way with two hits while Tyler Johnstone added a hit and a run scored. The SEC's leading RBI man, Karl Amonite, was held hitless for the first time in 11 games, but he did have a run batted in for his 31st of the season.
In the first inning it was Johnstone that once again set the table for the strength of Auburn's order. Earning a walk from Thoms, he quickly moved to third on a Thomas double. It was the eighth of the year for Thomas and gave Amonite yet another RBI opportunity and he delivered with a sacrifice fly for the first run of the game. Josh Bell then doubled to left center to score Thomas and make it 2-0 Tigers. Following a Joey Huskins hit-by-pitch and a Ben Sprague single the final run of the inning came on a sacrifice fly by Russell Dixon that scored Amonite to make it 3-0 Tigers. From that point forward the Tigers would struggle to score as the Keydets made a run at a victory.
Auburn added a run in the fourth inning when Dixon reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error by the VMI third baseman. Playing textbook baseball the Tigers bunted Dixon to third where he scored moments later on a sacrifice fly by Stacey. The run proved to be a huge one for the Tigers as VMI came to life in the middle innings against Blake.
The Keydets finally got on the board in the sixth inning against the Tigers. Jacoby Fields led off the inning with a single and moved all the way to third on a Kelly Sweppenhiser double into the gap. A sacrifice fly off Blake and then a ground ball to second off Madden brought home both runners and cut Auburn's lead in half at 4-2.
VMI refused to go away, scoring another run in the top of the seventh off Madden to pull within one. With one out in the inning Stephen Parsons reached on an error by shortstop Adam Stacey, just his fourth of the season. Madden then made matters worse for himself when he hit Chad Rice to put runners on first and second with just one out. Following a ground out to Madden that moved the runners up, left fielder Fields would have the at-bat of the game. Getting down two strikes, he fouled off five consecutive pitches before lining an infield single off the glove of Madden that scored Parsons from third. Madden then struck out Kelly Sweppenheiser to end the inning, but not before the Keydets had cut the lead to just one. Nix came on in the eighth and shut the door on the VMI attack as he earned his fifth save of the season.
The Tigers return to action Tuesday when they travel to Troy to face the Trojans at 6 p.m. SEC play begins next weekend when Auburn takes on the Tennessee Volunteers at Plainsman Park in a three-game series.