Bombs Away On Pratt's Big Day

Auburn dominated the Thundering Herd on Saturday thanks in large part to three doubles and four runs batted in from <b>Trent Pratt</b>.

Auburn, Ala.--Complete domination. That's the only way to describe Auburn's performance Saturday afternoon as they blasted the Marshall Thundering Herd 21-4 in front of 3,421 at Plainsman Park. Auburn is now 5-1 on the season while Marshall falls to 0-4.

In all phases of the game, the Tigers were clearly superior on Saturday. Collecting 18 hits, including 10 of the extra-base variety while allowing just nine for Marshall, this game was as lopsided as the score indicated. Starting pitcher Cory Dueitt earned the win for the Tigers but the story of the game was catcher Trent Pratt. Blasting thee doubles and driving home four runs, the senior was one of six Tiger batters to have at least two hits in the game as the offense continues to surprise in the early going of the 2002 season.

Trent Pratt is hitting .370 with four doubles and a team-best 10 runs batted in this season.

"I need to try to spread those hits out over a couple of games," Pratt joked after Saturday's game. "Instead of getting four one day and three the next, I need to get one or two every day. We just came out and played hard today. The team did a great job of staying on things. The game got big, but they kept doing all the little things right and played hard all the time. That's what we have to always do and that's the most impressive thing about the game today. We never let things get away from us. They just kept playing hard the whole time."

That was an accomplishment in itself Saturday as this game was over early with Auburn driving the nail in the proverbial coffin by the third inning.

In the first inning a Pratt double with two outs set the table for Bobby Huddleston, who lined a single into left field to score Pratt with the game's first run.

The Tigers would blow open the game in the second and things started with Scott Schade reaching on an error with one out and nobody on base. Jonathan Schuerholz was up next and he delivered a perfect push bunt past the pitcher for a base hit after Schade had advanced to second on a balk, to give Auburn runners on first and third.

After a Sean Gamble fielder's choice caught Schade at the plate, Javon Moran tripled to right center to score both runners and set the plate for Tug Hulett. The freshman delivered by singling to right field to score Moran and give Auburn a 4-0 lead. Pratt would add one more to that total as his second double of the game plated Hulett and just like that the Tigers had a five-run lead.

Javon Moran takes a break from third following his triple.

That lead would increase dramatically the next inning as the Tigers exploded for seven runs to make this game a breather the rest of the way. With two outs and nobody on base, Schade singled up the middle to get things going. Schuerholz was up next and the junior was hit by a pitch to give Auburn two base runners with two outs. After both runners advanced on a wild pitch and Gamble walked, Moran came through again, this time doubling down the left field line to score Schade and Schuerholz and give Auburn the lead by a touchdown. Another walk followed to Tug Hulett, setting the stage for Pratt. He got the pitch he was looking for on a 2-2 count and took one deep into left center field for his second double of the game that scored all three runners to make the score 10-0.

With Huddleston at the plate, Pratt advanced to third on a wild pitch and after a walk to the designated hitter, Pratt scored on another wild pitch that moved Huddleston to second base. He would score just moments later on a Matt Grooms double and Auburn led 12-0 after just three innings of play.

While the Tiger bats were busy pounding out hit after hit against Marshall pitching, Dueitt was doing his job on the mound to near perfection. Allowing just one run and four hits in five innings of work, the Hoover native gave Renfroe and company a solid outing after a shaky performance by Levale Speigner Friday afternoon. Controlling the game from the mound with a lively breaking ball and effective fast ball, Pratt said Dueitt was on his game Saturday.

"Cory was great," Pratt said. "Cory just came out and we kind of knew that we had a plan for what we wanted to do to them today. Cory was perfect. He came out and made one mistake today, that was it. He just kept throwing it and kept trying to make them beat his strengths. Our infield was great. I think we turned three double plays today and that always helps."

While Mike Mueller, Steven Register and Ken Clayton finished the day on the mound, the game belonged to the hitters. In this case Mueller actually became a story on both fronts and he delivered his second home run in as many days with a blast in the sixth inning that wasn't without a little controversy. Following Marshall getting on the board in the top of the fifth with one run, Auburn came back to add more gasoline to an already flaming fire by scoring five more runs in the fifth. The highlight came off the bat of Huddleston, who lined a first-pitch fastball deep over the monster in left field for a two-run home run that again came with two outs in the inning. Heading to the sixth inning Auburn led 17-1 and things were bleak for the visitors.

Mueller would put his exclamation point on the game in the sixth. After pitching a scoreless sixth inning in relief, he came to the plate with two runners on and nobody out. With the wind blowing out to center field, he lifted one high towards the back drop behind the 385-foot mark in center. Catching just enough of it, the ball carried over the wall for a home run, but in his excitement Mueller ran past Hulett at second base, retiring the freshman for the first out of the inning and making it a two-run home run. Auburn would add two in the eighth and Marshall three in the ninth to make the final score 21-4.

Sunday the Tigers go for the sweep with Colby Paxton taking the mound against Chris Fritz from Marshall. Paxton is 1-0 on the season with an ERA of 3.00 while Fritz is 0-0 with an ERA of 2.45. After that Auburn returns to action Tuesday when the Tigers are hosts to the Troy State Trojans at 3 p.m. at Plainsman Park.

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