Trying to avoid taxing the weekend pitchers with a trip to Mississippi State on the horizon, Auburn coach Tommy Slater went deep into his bullpen with freshman Cliff Mullins getting the start and relievers Grant Cardwell, Clarence Nicely and Josh Blake getting the bulk of the work with Jared Shore and Michael Nix closing things out. While they didn't come away with the victory, Slater said that giving up just three runs on seven hits and none after the third inning is a confidence builder for his young pitching staff.
"For these guys to come out and pitch against a team like that, it should give them a lot of confidence," Slater said. "That's one heck of a talented team. We're going to see a lot of those guys go high in the draft. That's a very talented college baseball team and more Mullins and Nicely and Cardwell to pitch as well as they did and Blake to grab a role there as a left-on-left role match-up guy. He comes into the game out of the bullpen a little differently, with a little fire. Maybe in that role, a short-quick role, he can just blow and we might look to make that his deal."
Jeff Boutwell is held on at second by Georgia Tech's Tyler Greene.
The loss overshadowed an outstanding night by junior college transfer Jeff Boutwell. Coming into the game with just 17 at-bats on the season, the former Vanderbilt outfielder had a career high four hits to lead Auburn's attack. The only other players to collect a hit on the night were right fielder Clete Thomas, catcher Josh Bell and third baseman Josh Donaldson. Slater said that Boutwell's night was all about working hard.
"It's kind of the theme of our team," Slater said. "All of our guys work hard and we get them all a lot of extra work whether they're playing or not. It's not about just working with the guys that are regular players. Bout gets as many cuts as the other players and gets extra cuts when we take extra BP (batting practice) on the field. He got an opportunity tonight and did a great job."
The Yellow Jackets got on the board first thanks to the bat of lead-off man Danny Payne. Taking a pitch the other way, he hit one that fell just in front of a diving Clete Thomas in right field. The ball rolled to the wall, allowing Payne to coast into third base with a triple. Following a strikeout of Tyler Greene, Steven Blackwood hit a ground ball that Auburn's Karl Amonite made a diving stop on behind the first base bag. Amonite tossed to Mullins covering first for the second out of the inning, but the run scored to make it 1-0 Georgia Tech.
It didn't take long for the Tigers to answer back as a new addition to the lineup came up big for Auburn. With two outs and nobody on both Josh Bell and Amonite walked off Tech starter Ryan Turner to bring Boutwell to the plate. Coming into the game with just five hits all season, Boutwell doubled just down the left field line to score both runners and give Auburn its only lead of the game.
Tech came back to tie the game in the top of the second as Jeff Kindel singled to lead off the inning and one out later moved to third on an Andy Hawranick single to center field. A walk to Mike Trapani loaded the bases where a Payne ground ball to Tyler Johnstone at second base pushed across the second Yellow Jacket run of the game. They would add another run in the third inning off Cardwell as a leadoff walk to Greene came back to haunt the Tigers when a Jeremy Slayden ground ball scored Greene to make it 3-2 Georgia Tech.
From that point forward it was a pitcher's duel on both sides as Cardwell cruised through the fourth and fifth innings in his best career outing for the Tigers. Clarence Nicely came on to pitch the sixth and part of the seventh before Blake got the final out of the inning. For the Yellow Jackets Turner controlled things until he gave way to Tim Gustafson in the sixth.
Auburn threatened in the seventh inning, but for the second time in the game got two runners on with nobody out and failed to score. In the seventh Bruce Edwards walked to lead off the inning and Johnstone was hit by a pitch trying to bunt him to second base. Unfortunately that would be it for the Tigers as Clete Thomas failed to move the runners up even after a foul ball was dropped by Tech third baseman Wes Hodges. Bell hit into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play as the Tigers couldn't capitalize on the good start in the inning.
Turner earned the win for the Yellow Jackets, allowing just two runs on six hits in five and one/third innings. The save went to Matt Wieters, his third of the season. Cardwell took the loss for the Tigers as he allowed one run on two hits in three innings. Blackwood had two hits to lead the Yellow Jacket attack.
The Tigers return to action this weekend when they travel to Starkville to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a three-game series. Game times for the weekend are 6:30 on Friday night, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.