Speigner Dominant In Auburn Win

Junior pitcher Levale Speigner returned to form Friday in Auburn's 5-3 win over Murray State.

Auburn, Ala.--Levale Speigner tied a career-high with eight strikeouts and allowed just two runs in seven innings Friday as the Auburn Tigers (8-4) defeated the Murray State Thoroughbreds (2-5) by the score of 5-3 on a cold day at Plainsman Park.

The junior from Thomasville, Ga., threw just 87 pitches with 61 going for strikes.

Offensively the Tigers chipped away at the Murray State pitching for 10 hits and five runs, which was enough to pick up the win. But it wasn't a day for the offense to shine as Speigner dominated from the outset in this game and never relinquished his hold on the game. In the eighth he turned things over to closer Kenny Clayton and he shut the door on the Thoroughbreds for the win.

Speigner stood tall on the mound for the Tigers on Friday afternoon.

"I felt pretty good," Speigner said. "I came in today and I decided I was going to be mentally focused and go out and throw my best game. We made some defensive plays behind me and Trent (Pratt) called a great game. We put it together today.

"I just felt better. I didn't really have all my pitches working the way I would like to but I went in there and I decided I was going to battle today and fill the zone up early with fastballs for strikes. After Clemson I tried to step it up a notch because I didn't throw well against Clemson. I just tried to come out today and step it up."

Pitching dominated both sides in the early going as both Speigner and Murray State starter Kyle Perry controlled things in the outset. The game remained scoreless through two and a half innings before Auburn would get on the board first. In his second trip to the plate, lead-off man Javon Moran drilled a full count pitch down the left field line for a double to start the inning off the right way. A bunt single by Sean Gamble moved Moran to third giving Auburn a chance at a big inning.

After a wild pitch moved Gamble to second, designated hitter Bobby Huddleston flied to left field to score Moran with the first run of the game. Things looked like they would explode for the Tigers as Mike Mueller singled to right to put runners on first and third again with just one out and then Scott Schade walked to load the bases. However, a fluke play ended the inning. Trent Pratt hit a pop-up just down the third base line, but the Murray State third baseman couldn't make the play allowing the ball to land in fair ground. Not hearing the infield fly rule called, Gamble left from third base only to be tagged out at the plate for the third out of the inning and leaving the Tigers with just a 1-0 lead.

The Tigers would add single runs in the fourth and sixth to take a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning. In the fourth, a Moran bunt single scored Jonathan Schuerholz from third and in the sixth a Moran ground ball again scored Schuerholz from third after he reached on a lead-off walk.

The Thoroughbreds would cut into the lead in the seventh inning thanks to a couple of bleeders that would fall in for hits off Speigner. Center fielder Garner Byers got the inning started with a double down the left field line. Designated hitter Brett McCutchan was up next and he reached on an infield single to put runners on first and third with nobody out.

First baseman Andy Mazzier blooped a single into right field just in front of Mueller that scored Byers with Murray's first run. With two outs, Mike Voyles bounced one just over Speigner's head that Auburn shortstop Chuck Jeroloman tried to make the play on but booted towards first base allowing McCutchan to score from second and make it 3-2 Auburn.

"That was big league stuff," Auburn coach Steve Renfroe said of Speigner's performance. "He just comes up there and his focus was just phenomenal. It's not a great day to pitch. When you get out there the wind is blowing pretty good and your hand is not moist and yet he's out there pumping strike after strike. I thought he got a little tired in that one inning and then he battled through it. He didn't really get to his pitch count, but I think the weather really takes more out of you than you realize. He gutted out that one inning for us and kept the lead and then Kenny came in for us and did a nice job. It was good to see Kenny do that."

Auburn would tack on two more runs in the eighth thanks to clutch hitting by some of the lesser-used players on the roster. With one out Jeroloman doubled down the right field line to put the pressure on Murray State's pitcher Gordon Dugan. It worked but it took a little good fortune. After a Moran fly out, Gamble singled to left field scoring Jeroloman, but only because Murray State catcher Charlie Ward couldn't hold on to a perfect throw from Todd Satterfield. The throw allowed Gamble to move to second where he would score just one pitch later on a Trent Wilson single to center field. The Thoroughbreds would add a run in the ninth off Clayton to make the final 5-3.

The teams meet again on Saturday, weather permitting, as Eric Brandon gets the start against Jesse Rhodes for Murray State. Brandon is 1-0 on the season with an ERA of just 2.81 while Rhodes is 0-2 with an 8.59 ERA. The first pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. and will follow the Auburn-LSU basketball game that begins at 1 p.m.

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