Tigers Sweep Rams On Opening Weekend

The baseball Tigers improved to 3-0 with a sweep of Virginia Commonwealth at Plainsman Park.

Auburn, Ala.—Center fielder Javon Moran had four hits and Colby Paxton pitched six innings of three-hit ball as the Auburn Tigers completed a three-game sweep of the VCU Rams with an 8-2 victory Sunday afternoon at Plainsman Park.

Highlighting a 13-hit effort by Auburn, their third straight day of double figures hits, was the play of Moran. Following four-hit games by Bobby Huddleston on Friday and Trent Pratt on Saturday, Moran said that he saw the ball well on Sunday and he was able to find the holes in the defense of the Rams.

Javon Moran is shown in action vs. Virginia Commonwealth University on Sunday.

"We've got a young team and everyone has to play their role and play their part," Moran said. "That's what everybody has been doing. We've just got to keep it up and keep winning."

While Moran was the offensive star, Paxton's performance was the cause for much of the excitement after the game. Known for tightening up in key situations last season, the sophomore squelched that in a hurry Sunday afternoon. After breezing through the first two innings, the Rams touched him for two runs on three hits in the top of the third and it looked to be a short day for the hard thrower. But he battled back, pitching hitless baseball for the next three innings until head coach Steve Renfroe called it a day in the top of the seventh.

"I thought I threw okay," Paxton said. "In the third inning I got a little shaken up. I started speeding up in the stretch and that happens the first time out. Overall, I thought I threw pretty good. Pratty (catcher Pratt) called a great game, the guys hit the ball and played defense behind me. You can't ask for anything better than that."

Renfroe said, "I thought it was a great performance because it was a first outing. The history last year was to kind of come out, look great, and get to the third inning and struggle and not make it through. I think this might be a hump game for his career. We got there and all of the sudden it started to bleed a little bit and he grabbed the game back by the throat and just dominated the next 10 or 12 hitters and got us a chance to get where we needed to in the pen."

Trailing 2-0, Auburn answered the bell like they had all weekend. With one out in the third, Moran legged out an infield single to get the inning started. True freshman Sean Gamble then singled up the middle to put runners on first and second. The two then completed a double steal with Pratt at the plate to give the senior catcher a chance to drive home two runs. He was able to push one across as a grounder to second scored Moran for Auburn's first run while Gamble moved to third. He would score just one batter later as Mike Mueller singled to right, pushing him across the tie the game at two.

Auburn broke open the tie game in the bottom of the next inning behind the hitting of the young guys. Freshman Tug Hulett got things started by ripping a double into the left-center field gap. After being moved to third by a sacrifice bunt off the bat of freshman Chuck Jeroloman, he would score just one batter later as Jonathan Schuerholz hit a slow roller to the second baseman allowing Hulett to score. In the process Schuerholz beat the throw to first to give the Tigers a base runner once again. Showing improved speed, the junior stole second base setting the plate for Moran. The Valdosta, Ga., native once again came through, this time with a single to left field.

Gamble was up next and he continued his hot ways by drilling a single to center that scored Schuerholz from third. Forcing the action, Moran rounded second and headed for third. The throw was late and allowed Gamble to move to second as well, but both would be stranded and Auburn led 4-2.

"Our base running, I think, other than our pitching was the story of the weekend," Renfroe said. "More than anything else, we were aggressive from the first pitch Friday until the end of today. That's what we'll have to do. It was nice to see the attitude. It's just a commitment of your will really. We got some big hits and answered again today. When they scored we came right back and answered. That's kind of nice to see."

Colby Paxton opened the season in grand fashion Sunday afternoon.

With Paxton cruising, the Tigers put the game away in the bottom of the sixth inning with four big runs that sealed the win. Schuerholz opened the inning by getting a base on balls from Rams' pitcher Davy Martin. Moran then chased Martin from the game by sending one deep off the monster in left field for a triple that scored Schuerholz from first. Gamble then reached first when he beat out an attempted sacrifice bunt. Moran scored on the bunt and Auburn led 6-2. After Pratt flew out to right field, Gamble stole second before Mueller singled him home for a five-run lead. Third baseman Josh Todd would end the scoring on the day by doubling to deep left field and scoring Trent Wilson, who was pinch-running for Mueller.

The combination of freshman Reid Price and sophomore Eric Brandon closed the door on the Rams the rest of the way as the Tigers opened the season 3-0 for the fifth time in the past six years.

The Tigers return to action Tuesday at 3 p.m. when they play the Samford Bulldogs at Plainsman Park. Sophomore right hander Andrew Skinner is expected to get the start for Auburn in its first mid-week game of the 2002 season.

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