In a dominating performance, Paxton surrendered just that one hit in nine innings while striking out a career-high six Kentucky hitters as the Auburn Tigers (17-5, 2-1) earned the series win over the Wildcats (10-10, 1-2) with a 5-0 shutout Sunday at Plainsman Park.
"I think it was as dominating as what happened to us on Friday night," Auburn coach Steve Renfroe said. "That's saying a lot. You go back to the first inning of North Carolina (when he allowed five runs) and he's been dominant. He did go six more innings that day and nine today. He only threw 96 pitches today. Our average guy was about 94 last year for a start in that range. He's a big strong guy. If there's anybody that can go 110 it's him, especially on a day like this. He just had tremendous stuff."
Colby Paxton went the distance for the victory.
With Paxton dominating the Wildcats on a sunny day at Hitchcock Field at Plainsman Park, it wouldn't take much offensively for the Tigers to win the game. Actually enough came on the first Auburn batter of the day when center fielder Javon Moran led off the game by driving a pitch deep over the left-center field wall for a home run to put the Tigers up 1-0. The homer was the first for Moran and the first lead-off home run for Auburn since Mailon Kent accomplished the feat in 2000 against UAB.
The home run also extended Moran's hitting streak to a season high 11 games and kept the speedy sophomore on a roll for the game. He finished 2-4 on the day with two runs scored, leading the Tigers to the win.
Javon Moran singles on Sunday.
"I saw a good pitch, got my hands in and it went out," Moran said. "It was a good way to start off the game… I'm feeling real good at the plate. I'm seeing the ball good and not really rushing things. I'm just relaxed and ready to hit."
Staked to the early lead, Paxton completely took the Wildcats out of the game. Retiring the first 12 Kentucky hitters in order, he mixed in a combination of fastballs and sliders to perfection. Getting ahead in the count, the Germantown, Tenn., native cruised through the early innings giving his offense plenty of time to get cranked up.
"Today I just had command of my fastball," he said. "That's a big key to me because I'm a fastball guy. Mixing in my slider kind of puts them off so it's kind of a combination of both."
Leading 1-0 in the fourth, Auburn would extend the lead on the way to the win. Mike Mueller led off the inning with a double to left field and advanced to third when Scott Schade hit behind the runner perfectly to move him 90-feet closer to scoring. That unselfish play would become very important because Matt Grooms lifted a fly ball to right field on the next pitch that was just deep enough to score Mueller from third and Auburn was ahead 2-0.
Mueller slides into home with Auburn's second run of the game.
The perfect game and no-hitter would be gone in the next half inning for Paxton as the first batter of the inning, Gordon Tyler, reached on an error by Jonathan Schuerholz. Hitting a slow roller to the third baseman, he legged it out to first where Schuerholz's throw pulled Schade off the bag. Applying the tag on his way down, Schade wasn't able to get it in time and the perfect game was gone. After moving to second on a sacrifice fly, Tyler would advance to third thanks to a perfect bunt by Seth Morris that Paxton was able to field but couldn't get to Schade in time. It would be all for naught though as Paxton retired the final batter of the inning to end the Wildcat threat.
Auburn extended the lead in the fifth. With one out, Moran started the rally by singling through the left side. After stealing second base, Moran advanced to third on a single by Tug Hulett before Bobby Huddleston was hit by a- itch to load the bases.
Mueller was up next and he drove home a run on a fielder's choice and because of a wild throw to first on the double play attempt, Hulett was able to score from second base as well and Auburn had a four-run lead after five innings.
The Tigers put a cap on the weekend in the eighth inning as Mueller walked to start the inning. Pinch-running for Mueller, Trent Wilson advanced to second on a wild pitch with Schade at the plate. Coming through like he's done regularly recently, Schade drilled a double down the right field line to score Wilson and put Auburn ahead 5-0.
Paxton struggled briefly in the ninth as a lead-off walk and a hit batter put two runners on base. But, settling down after a brief visit from Renfroe, the big right-hander finished what he had started for Auburn's second complete game of the season.
The Tigers return to action Tuesday at 6 p.m. when they face the UAB Blazers at Plainsman Park. Auburn travels next weekend when the Tigers face the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville for a three-game series.