Starter Evan Crawford and relievers Andy Masten, Johnny Thompson and Luke Greinke were in control all day for the Tigers as they dominated the over-matched Pride hitters in the victory. Auburn Coach Tommy Slater said the win was a solid one for his team and it was mainly due to the performance of his pitching staff.
"Evan had a great start," Slater said. "I'm really proud of him. It was only his second time out and we were going to cut him at 70-75 pitches. That fourth inning he ended up throwing 30 pitches, which got him right to 71. I was really impressed by the tempo at which Evan pitched. I thought he was under control and was able to locate his fastball to both sides of the plate. His breaking ball and the change-up were both working very well today and that's because his body was under control. His tempo was just very good."
Much of that tempo was created by Donaldson behind the plate. In just his third career game as a catcher the sophomore had another good outing and also got the ultimate vote of confidence from the coaching staff. In one short weekend Donaldson's play behind the plate has changed the game for the Tigers said Slater.
"Number one he is a very confident kid and believes in himself," Slater said. "I think you have to have that in a catcher. He's very athletic back there and can bounce out and field his position really well. He's got a really good arm, as evidenced by a couple of pick-offs yesterday. He also understands how to call pitches very, very well, which helps our tempo a lot. We turned the game over to Don today. Matty (Matt Myers) didn't call many pitches today because Don was in such as good rhythm with our pitchers. Because he's such a good hitter I think he has a really good understanding of how to call the game. He did a really good job of that today and I was really proud of him."
Luke Greinke closed the door on Sunday's win with his second save.
In the first Crawford struggled a little out of the gate with a one-out single leading to a run when the freshman threw a wild pick-off attempt at first to move the runner to second. Then a wild pitch moved him to third where he would score moments later on a Joey Caputo sacrifice fly.
For the second consecutive day the Tigers got off to a good start at the plate with Tyler Johnstone again the catalyst. Earning yet another walk to get things going, Johnstone moved to second on a bunt single by Bruce Edwards. The bases were loaded moments later when Donaldson earned a walk to bring the clutch Andy Bennett to the plate.
This time however Bennett wasn't as clutch as he hit into a 4-6-3 double play. Johnstone did score on the play to tie things at one. Left fielder Jeff Boutwell was next up and he hit a towering fly ball into center field. Playing shallow, Hofstra's Eric Balson was unable to run down the ball. Boutwell legged the hit out for a triple to score Edwards and make it 2-1 Tigers.
The Tigers extended the lead in the bottom of the third as Donaldson ripped a one-out double into left to give Auburn a runner in scoring position. That's all Bennett needed as he singled up the middle to score Donaldson and put the Tigers up by two.
Following a single run by the Pride in the top of the fourth Auburn came back with two in the bottom of the inning to extend the lead to three. Freshman Mike Bianucci singled to open the inning, but was erased on a fielder's choice that allowed third baseman Josh Stapleton to reach first. Johnstone then singled home Stapleton after he advanced on a Phillip Stringer groundout to put Auburn back up by two. Donaldson put a cap on the scoring in the inning with his second double of the day to score Johnstone and make it 5-2 Tigers.
From that point forward it was all about the Auburn bullpen as Masten came on in relief of Crawford and alloed just one hit in two innings to earn the win. Thompson had the most impressive outing of the day as he struck out three in two innings and didn't allow a hit. Greinke closed the door and earned his second save by pitching the ninth.
At the plate both Donaldson and Bianucci had two hits for the Tigers on a day when the offense started strong and faded down the stretch. Auburn returns to action Tuesday at 4 p.m. when Troy comes to town for a single game.