Starter Colby Paxton (3-1) picked up the win for the Tigers as he pitched four innings, allowing just two hits and two runs on 44 pitches.
"It was big," Auburn coach Steve Renfroe said of the sweep. "After last weekend and then not playing for a week, to put three wins up is big. It doesn't matter, sweeps just aren't easy. You'll take any of them you can, especially with these two on the road (at UAB and Samford) and North Carolina sitting there right before conference. It will be a difficult week and a half."
Before moving forward the Tigers had to put the finishing touches on a masterful pitching weekend and they did just that on Sunday. Combining with Paxton, relievers Reid Price, Andrew Skinner and Cory Dueitt shut down Murray State on Sunday. Following a short outburst in the first inning when designated hitter Brett McCutchan touched Paxton with a two-run home run to right field, the Tiger pitching staff was again near perfect, allowing just one base runner to reach on a walk for the remainder of the game.
"I thought Colby was really good," Renfroe said. "With the wind chill like this (upper 20s), it takes a lot more out of you. A 50-pitch outing in this is just as good as 85 or 90 and we weren't going to push him. That's why we did what we did. Reid needed to get in and I thought he looked sharp. I thought Andrew Skinner looked real sharp. That was a good sign. Cory had great stuff. I would have liked to had Cory throw one more, but we just couldn't do that."
While the pitching was again the story, Sunday the offense decided to join the party as the Tigers scored in five of the seven innings in the game. Collecting 12 hits as a team, with two each from Tug Hulett, Jonathan Schuerholz and Scott Schade, Auburn's offense once again showed some pop on a normally tough day to swing the aluminum.
Second baseman Tug Hulett heads for third on a single by Bobby Huddleston.
"I felt good," Hulett said. "It's good to come out here and play. I love it. It is a great place to play and the people all have fun. Cold is all in your head anyway. We just come out here and had fun. I felt good swinging it and that's what we're here for."
Trailing 2-0 heading to the bottom of the first inning, Auburn looked to jump on the Thoroughbreds early, something they had not done in the first two games of the series. They managed to do that and it started with an unusual Javon Moran walk, just his second walk of the season in 55 at-bats. Following a Moran stolen base, Hulett came through with the first of his two hits by doubling down the left field line to easily score the speedy Moran and make the score 2-1.
Hot-hitting Bobby Huddleston would again come through, this time blooping a single down the right field line to put runners on first and third with no outs. The Tigers would close the first inning scoring in a big way when Mike Mueller launched the first pitch he saw deep over the right field wall for a three-run home run and a 4-2 Auburn lead. The home run was Mueller's fourth on the season and gave the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish.
Mueller connects on his first inning home run that put Auburn ahead to stay.
Holding a tenuous two-run lead on a day when the wind was blowing out to right field, the Tigers turned the game over to the pitching staff and the defense to hold the lead. Several nice plays by Hulett, Schade and Josh Todd in the field, not to mention Moran in center field, kept Murray State at bay and allowed the Auburn offense to stretch out the lead.
"That's all a credit to Coach (Chris) Finwood," Hulett said of his defensive improvements. "He gets out here and gets after it with me and makes me work on it. Those are a credit to him. Those are just plays that I react to because of all the work I have put in this year. That's due to him and coach (Rob) Macrory. I give the credit to them."
The Tigers would add single runs in the second and third innings before putting the game away in the sixth inning. In the second, a Chuck Jeroloman single up the middle eventually led to an RBI single by Hulett, his second of the day.
In the third, a Schade double with one out and nobody on led to Auburn's sixth run of the game as he later scored on a Doug Vines double to the left field corner. But it was in the sixth that Auburn would close the door on the weekend.
With two outs and nobody on, left fielder Sean Gamble was hit by a pitch to give Auburn some life. Moran was due up next and the sophomore ripped a single to right that allowed Gamble to move to third. Schuerholz, in for Hulett, put down a perfect bunt to drive home Gamble and give the Tigers a 7-2 lead.
Following a double steal by Moran and Schuerholz, Trent Pratt, in for Huddleston, walked to load the bases. Mueller then picked up his fourth RBI of the game by drawing a walk after being down 1-2 in the count. Schade continued his improved play at the plate by singling to right field to score both Schuerholz and Moran and give Auburn a comfortable 10-2 lead after six innings of play.
The game ended in the seventh on a mercy rule as the Tigers added two more runs, the final coming on a bases loaded walk to Pratt.
The Tigers return to action Tuesday and Wednesday when they travel to Birmingham for back-to-back games. Tuesday they face the UAB Blazers at Luther Young Field on the UAB campus. The first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. Auburn will seek revenge on Wednesday when the Tigers play Samford at 6 p.m. on the Bulldogs' campus. Next weekend they return home to face the North Carolina Tar Heels for a three-game series at Plainsman Park.
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