The victory improves Auburn to 16-6 on the season and evens the series with the Vols at one game each. Tennessee falls to 15-5 overall with Sean Watson getting the loss, his second of the season. Sullivan allowed four hits and struck out five to improve his record to 4-1.
"Sully was outstanding," coach Tommy Slater said. "We make an error in the first and he was able to pitch out of that and does a tremendous job. He just gets better every single time out."
For Sullivan it was another in a lengthening line of outstanding performances this season. The junior is 4-1 in his last five starts with an ERA of just 1.77. In 35 2/3 innings he has struck out 32 while walking just three and opponents are hitting a minute .180.
The game was also the return to form of catcher Josh Bell at the plate. Struggling coming into the contest, Bell had two hits and five RBI, which tied a career high. Three came on one swing, a long home run over the left field fence in the seventh inning. Bell said it felt good to have some success, especially after first baseman Karl Amonite was walked twice intentionally to get to him during the game.
"It was about the hardest ball I've hit in three weeks," Bell said. "It felt good. For our team it's a different guy every day and I'm glad I was able to contribute today. They were taking the bat out of Karl's hands today so I really wanted to challenge myself and make sure I came through for our team."
After struggling to make solid contact early off Watson, the Tigers finally got something going in the third inning as Tyler Johnstone walked with one out in the inning to get things started. He quickly stole second during a Bruce Edwards at-bat and advanced to third on a ground ball. Following back-to-back walks to Clete Thomas and Amonite, Bell came through with his first two RBI on a strange play.
Pitched inside with two strikes, Bell jammed a pop up that hit just in front of Vol third baseman Chase Headley. The ball spun away from Headley and Bell easily reached first. In the meantime Thomas was off with the pitch and second and never slowed up. He scored easily behind Johnstone to put Auburn up 2-0.
The Tigers added two more runs in the fifth as Johnstone once again keyed things with a leadoff walk. He moved all the way to third base on an Edwards single up the middle and Edwards wasted little time in stealing second base to put runners in prime scoring position. Johnstone put Auburn up 3-0 on a fly out by Thomas, but Edwards remained at second.
Amonite's first intentional walk came next, but a Tennessee mistake would allow the second run of the inning. With Amonite at first, and not a threat to steal second, Watson attempted to pick him off and threw the ball a little high. The ball deflected off the first baseman's glove and into right field. Never slowing down, Edwards raced around third and scored to put Auburn up 4-0.
Tennessee finally got on the board against Sullivan in the sixth inning as Eric King led things off with a single and was moved around until he eventually scored on a J.P. Arencibia ground out to end Sullivan's scoreless streak at 14 1/3 innings. That would be all for the Vols the rest of the way though as John Madden pitched the final three innings, giving up just three hits, to earn his third save.
Auburn's final three runs of the night would come courtesy of Bell. Following an Edwards single to get things started in the seventh and a ground ball by Thomas that moved him to second, Amonite was given his second free pass to bring Bell to the plate. Getting ahead in the count, Bell drilled a long home run over the left field wall to make the final margin of victory six as Auburn won going away 7-1.
Game three of the series takes place Sunday afternoon at 1 as Josh Blake is on the mound for the Tigers. Auburn hasn't lost a series to Tennessee since 1996.