"It was great to see Casey," Slater said. "Casey is not only one of the best players to ever play here, but one of the best competitors. When you talk about Casey Dunn nobody talks about the tools, they just talk about what a hard-nosed, tough competitor he was. A two-time All-American and I think a three-time All-SEC player for us, he's got his kids playing hard. They took advantage of our mistakes tonight. They are a well-coached team and his kids filled up the strike zone."
An All-American catcher for the Tigers in the late 1996-1999, Dunn is third on Auburn's career list for hits with 307 and runs batted in with 232. He's fourth in the books with 212 singles and 60 doubles. His 33 career home runs place him seventh in Auburn history.
After trying his hand at minor league baseball, Dunn returned home to Birmingham where he eventually became the head coach at Spain Park High School. In two seasons Dunn won 54 games, enough to catch the attention of Samford. Just six years removed from his playing days at Auburn he came back as the opposition Tuesday and walked away with a win.
"I think the biggest thing for us, because of the way we've played this year, any win is big for our kids," Dunn says. "If nothing else, this shows them that if we play well we can compete. We may not win 30 games or 40 games, but we can compete. That's the biggest thing that hopefully we'll learn tonight."
Tuesday's game was a study in patience for the players and fans alike as both pitching staffs struggled to find the strike zone at times and the game dragged on forever. It took just over two hours alone to play the first five innings, much of which came in the first inning.
Russell Dixon's six RBI was the most for an Auburn player in a single game since Trent Pratt in 2002.
Getting his second mid-week start in a row, sophomore Michael Felix didn't have it to begin Tuesday's game. Coming out of the gate fine, striking out the lead-off man, Felix proceeded to walk the next two Samford hitters before walking two more Samford hitters to force home the first run of the game. He appeared to get out of the inning with minimal damage when he forced Hunter Tubbs into a shallow fly ball into right field, but Clete Thomas broke back and the ball fell in for a single to score two. Leading 3-0 Samford got through Auburn's half of the first inning with starter Scott Kubina on the mound and came back for more in the second.
An infield single and walk set the table for the Bulldogs in the second as Matt Alling hit a one-out grounder to Tyler Johnstone at second base for the beginning of an inning-ending double play, but Phillip Stringer's throw was off-line allowing Bill Whitehead to score and make it 4-0. A Rice single pushed across the second run of the inning as the Bulldogs built a 5-0 advantage.
The Tigers got on the board in the second as Josh Bell led off the inning with a double to right field and left fielder Russell Dixon followed with a two-run shot over the right field wall for his first of the season. With the lead cut to three, Auburn and Dixon would dig even deeper in the third inning.
Leading off, Bruce Edwards singled into right field to get things going for the Tigers. After outs to both Clete Thomas and Karl Amonite, Bell earned a walk to bring Dixon to the plate. Sitting on a pitch, Dixon bombed a long fly ball into right-center field that banged off the wall for a double. The hit scored both Edwards and Bell to make it 5-4 Samford.
Dunn's club added to the advantage with a single run in the fourth and then three more in the sixth. The runs in the sixth came on a long three-run home run from Rice. It was his third home run of the season, all of which have come in the last three games.
Auburn came roaring back in the seventh, thanks once again to the freshman Dixon. With two outs and nobody on, Amonite earned a walk on four pitches from reliever Michael Neimkin. Bell followed with a double to left field that put runners on second and third with two outs for Dixon. Continuing his hot night, Dixon lined a single into right field to score both runners and drive home his fifth and sixth runs of the night. Slater said that Dixon was one of the bright spots on a night when Auburn had chances to win the game, but just didn't deliver.
"Russell had a nice night," Slater says. "He swung the bat real well. He's been swinging the bat real well. He had a great pre-game batting practice today. We wanted to get him some work in left field because he and (Ben) Sprague, I can see that becoming a platoon situation. Ben has really swung the bat well against lefties, but has struggled against righties. I'll look at the quality at-bats tonight, but I think there were a lot of them because we hit some balls hard. Let's credit Samford. They threw strikes when they needed to, they didn't make any mistakes and they took advantage of our mistakes."
Auburn falls to 19-9 on the season while Samford improves to 6-15. A problem area for Auburn on Tuesday was on the mound as the Tiger relievers behind Felix allowed seven hits and four runs in seven and 2/3 innings. At the plate Bell was the only other Tiger with more than one hit as he had two to continue his hot streak. The Tigers left 10 runners on base during the game.
The Tigers return to action Friday night when they take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first of a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times for the weekend are 7 p.m. on Friday, 4 p.m. on Saturday and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.