"You have to tip your hat," Renfroe said. "That kid did a great job. We saw him last year and liked him. He's a battler and he can pitch. He could pitch for anybody. They would take a lefty that could throw like that and could battle. We're not going to overpower anybody with our offense. We just can't make mistakes and we made a few mistakes today that cost us a run early and we can't do that."
"The guy threw a heck of a game and got us where we weren't looking," Auburn catcher Bobby Huddleston said. "This was a learning experience for the young guys. They have to know baseball is the only sport that you can't take for granted. No matter how big a school is, you have to treat everybody the same. They are going to have a good pitcher like they did and they are going to hand it to us if we're not ready for it."
Auburn starter Andrew Skinner matched Tharpe pitch-for-pitch in the early going. In his first career start, the hard-throwing righty was able to escape the first three innings without harm but wouldn't be so fortunate in the fourth. Leadoff man Sae Evans got things started by singling through the left side. One out later Major Allred ripped a double into right-center field that scored Evans and gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. Catcher Grant Caldwell was next up and he singled up the middle to score Allred and Samford had the early 2-0 lead.
The Tigers began to chip away at the lead in the bottom half of the inning. Freshman Tug Hulett started the inning with a double off the monster in left field. Following a Trent Pratt walk, Huddleston delivered his second hit of the game by driving a single into left field to score Hulett with Auburn's first run. Samford would answer back in the fifth on a solo home run by Joe Denson and once again they had a two-run lead.
Behind the play of freshmen once again, Auburn would make a run at the Samford lead in the eighth. Chuck Jeroloman, in for Jonathan Schuerholz at shortstop, dribbled one in the infield and beat the throw to first to give the Tigers a base runner. After moving to second on a fielder's choice, Jeroloman would score Auburn's second run on a single to center by Hulett. That would chase Tharpe from the game and bring in Samford's closer Ehren Wasserman. Delivering in his job, he induced Pratt into a line drive that the Bulldog's used to double off Hulett at first and close the inning.
Trent Pratt prepares to hit in Tuesday's game.
Trailing just 3-2, Auburn took the opportunity to get closer Eric Brandon some work in a close game. Things didn't work out as expected for the sophomore as he struggled from the first pitch when he hit Heath Owen to put a runner on immediately. But he rebounded to get two quick outs before disaster would strike. First Michael Collins singled to center field to put runners on first and second and bringing Cory Sumner to the plate. Working the count to 2-1, Sumner took an inside fastball and turned on it, pulling it down the first base line. Bouncing and just hugging the line, the ball rolled all the way into the right field corner for a triple, scoring both runners and giving Samford a 5-2 lead. Wasserman would close the door on the Tigers in the ninth to hand the Tigers their first loss of the season.
The Tigers return to action Friday at 3 p.m. when they host the Marshall Thundering Herd in the first of a three game series at Plainsman Park. Junior Levale Speigner (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will take the mound for Auburn. Saturday's game is scheduled for a 2 p.m. start while Sunday begins at 1:30.