Tigers Find Offense In Saturday Win

Auburn scored seven runs in the first three innings and then cruised to victory over Hofstra Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.--Junior college transfer Brett Butts picked up his first career win and Andy Bennett added two hits and three RBI as the Auburn Tigers defeated Hofstra 8-3 on a cold and dreary day at Plainsman Park. On a day when the Tigers had just eight hits Coach Tommy Slater said his team did the little things on offense to make it a successful day.

"We played offense today," Slater said. "We had eight hit and eight runs. Anytime you can have eight runs on eight hits it means you did a really nice job of playing offense. We've got some guys that are swinging the bat okay right now. We need to be a little bit better in the later stages of the game. I thought we gave away some at-bats there late. I don't ever want to do that. All-in-all it was a pretty solid effort by our club."

The story of the day was Butts and first-time catcher Josh Donaldon. Having to play third base because of an injury early in the season, Donaldson caught a game for the first time on Saturday and had a fantastic performance. Slater said that he brings something to the table that the Tigers had been missing through the first two weekends.

"I was real happy with Butts," Slater said. "He really mixed his pitches well. The curveball was working for him today. I tell you the tempo of the game today with Donaldson behind the plate at catcher was the best we've had all year. He did a great job of picking some guys off. He's a very confident kid and you can see that in the way he carries himself behind the plate with really good tempo between him and the pitcher. I was very happy with that."

Butts earned the victory by pitching five innings for the win.

On the day Butts allowed just six hits and two runs, one of which the Pride scored in the first on a single by designater hitter Matt Kougasian. Despite giving up three hits in the first the sophomore gave up just one run and set the stage for the Tigers at the plate.

Auburn got the offense going right away on a cold Saturday at Plainsman Park. Once again the catalyst on this day was leadoff man Tyler Johnstone. Earning a walk from Hofstra starter David Huth, Johnstone moved into scoring position when Bruce Edwards was hit by a pitch. Following a groundout by Josh Donaldson that moved the runners up, Bennett singled to right field to score both and give the Tigers 2-1 advantage.

Following a Russell Dixon groundout it was time for freshman Mike Bianucci to again make his presence felt. In his first game of the season Friday all Bianucci did was hit two home runs as part of a four-hit night and also add six RBI. Saturday he ripped a breaking ball off the monster in left to score Bennett. Although he was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double, it was the fifth hit in six at-bats this season for Bianucci and put the Tigers ahead 3-1 going to the second.

With Butts settling in on the mound the Tigers extended the lead in the third inning with the top of the order again setting the table. Leading off once again, Johnstone singled to reach for the second time on the day. Following an Edwards pop up to first, Donaldson ripped a triple to center that easily scored Johnstone to make it 4-1 Tigers. With the hot Bennett at the plate Hofstra decided to walk him intentionally to face Dixon.

Hitting just over .200 for the year, Dixon seemed like the perfect person to pitch to if you were in Hofstra's shoes, but the sophomore has been very unlucky so far this season with almost a dozen hard hit balls going for outs. This time his hard hit ball found a hole as he doubled inside the first base bag to score both runs and make it 6-1 Tigers. Bianucci put an end to the scoring in the inning with a deep fly ball to score Dixon after he advanced to third base on an error. Leading 7-1 the Tigers would coast the rest of the way despite going deep into the bullpen.

Hofstra added a single run in the fourth off Butts and Auburn quickly answered back in the fifth on a Bennett solo home run to right field. It was his second of the season and put Auburn back up by six. He said this team is starting to come together offensively and much of the reason for that is having Bianucci back in the lineup hitting behind him and Donaldson.

Hofstra added its final run of the game in the sixth off freshman reliever Paul Burnside, but that would be it for the Pride as fellow freshmen Bryan Woodall and Luke Greinke shut the door on the game with solid outings to close the game. Combined over the final four innings the three freshmen allowed just three hits and one run while striking out two.

At the plate the Tigers were paced by Bennett, Johnstone and Bianucci with two hits each. Bianucci's two hits and two runs batted in gives him six hits and eight runs batted in through two games.

The only negative in Saturday's game was the defensive performance of shortstop Justin Bristow. A smooth fielder and thrower normally, Bristow committed three throwing errors. While you couldn't tell in his demeanor, Slater said Bristow was hurt and should not have been playing.

"It was my mistake playing Bristow today," Slater said. "He got crushed on the finger in pre-game yesterday. They had to stick a pin in his nail just to relieve the pressure. He said ‘coach I'm good to go.' Obviously his throwing accuracy just isn't there right now, which is what happens when you crack your nail open. I'm a dumb coach. I shouldn't have played him and I did."

The Tigers and Pride will play the final game of the three-game series Sunday at 1 p.m. when freshman Evan Crawford takes the mound for his second start of the season.

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