Stapleton Singles Home Win For Tigers

Auburn scored a run in the 10th inning to defeat Troy 5-4 Tuesday.

Auburn, Ala.--Josh Stapleton's bases loaded single in the bottom of the 10th inning scored Russell Dixon with the game-winner as the Auburn Tigers beat the Troy Trojans 5-4 Tuesday at Plainsman Park.

With the bottom of the order up in the 10th the Tigers were looking for something to happen and doing the job was a group of young players still learning the ropes on the collegiate level. Leading off the inning Dixon ripped a single into left field to put Auburn in business. Getting behind 0-2, freshman Mike Bianucci doubled into left field to push Dixon all the way to third with still nobody out.

That brought Troy closer Josh Dew out of the bullpen to face freshman Justin Bristow. After getting ahead 0-2, he hit Bristow with a pitch to load the bases. He followed with a strikeout of freshman Ben Jones before Stapleton's at-bat. Getting down 1-2 in the count, Stapleton ripped a pitch down the right field line that dropped just fair before bounding into the fence. Dixon scored easily to give the Tigers the win on a night when Coach Tommy Slater said his young kids just wouldn't give in.

"I was just very pleased with how composed our kids were in another extra-inning game," Slater said. "That is a lot of first-year Auburn players coming up to the plate in the 10th inning. They had very composed, very good at-bats. In the ninth I thought our swings were too loose. Every guy up was trying to win the game with one swing. We talked about it in the dugout before the 10th and said ‘let's get good swings and get baserunners and not worry about hitting home runs.'

"Our guys did that. Dixon's AB was outstanding and Bianucci's AB was outstanding. Bristow gets hit by a pitch. Ben Jones punched (strikeout), but I thought he had a good at-bat prior to the strikeout. Then Stapleton, what can you say, that's just a game-time performance. It was an outstanding job by him."

South Alabama transfer sophomore Josh Stapleton came on in the sixth inning and eventually won it for the Tigers.

The Tigers avoided near disaster in the top of the 10th inning with reliever Peter Wiggins on the mound. On the hill last Friday night when Hofstra hit a two-run shot in the top of the 10th inning to take a short lead on Auburn, Wiggins thought it was déjà vu all over again Tuesday in the 10th when Edgar Ramirez hit a towering two-out shot into left field that came within a few inches of leaving the yard for a home run. Instead it turned into a double and Wiggins got the final out of the inning and eventually his third win of the young season.

"The same thing happened to me Friday against Hofstra," Wiggins said. "The guy hit it out in the 10th inning. I see that coming again, but I had to put it behind me and get the next batter.

"I knew it was a tight ballgame and I knew I needed to throw strikes and stay ahead of batters and be able to work both sides of the plate," he added. "I was able to locate with my fastball and had a little velocity on it. I was able to beat bats and that's all I had to do. I just went in real focused and was fortunate enough to miss bats and my defense was playing well behind me. I was fortunate tonight."

All of the late action overshadowed the performance of true freshman Bryan Woodall on the mound for the Tigers. In his first career start he allowed just one hit in five innings while striking out five Trojan hitters. Although he didn't get the victory Woodall said his performance was a very good one for the first time out.

"I had good command of all three of my pitches," Woodall said. "I had good command and worked the ball in and out. The guys made some good plays behind me. Overall I thought it was a good day. It couldn't have gotten much better. I made one bad pitch in five innings. You couldn't really ask for anything more."

The Tigers got off to a slow start against the Trojans, but the offense exploded in the fourth inning with the bottom of the order doing the damage. Leading off, first baseman Andy Bennett singled through the right side for the first of three consecutive hits by the Tigers that loaded the bases with nobody out. Following Bennett, both Jeff Boutwell and Bianucci singled to bring Bristow to the plate with the bags full.

Feeling the pressure of the moment, Trojan pitcher Steven Morelock let things overwhelm him as he walked Bristow and then followed by walking Luke Greinke to score two and give Auburn the early lead. Playing third base, Phillip Stringer followed with a deep fly ball that moved up all three runners and scored Bianucci with Auburn's third run. Later in the inning Tyler Johnstone was hit by a pitch to load the bases, which would prove to be big as a Troy balk pushed across Bristow with the fourth run of the inning.

Troy began its comeback in the fifth with a single run and followed that with three in the sixth to tie the game at four. The run in the fifth came off one swing of the bat from former Auburn pitcher Mike Felix. Now pitching and playing the outfield for the Trojans, Felix broke up Woodall's no-hitter with a solo home run to right field.

Reliever Clarence Nicely came on in the sixth for the Tigers with a three-run lead, but that evaporated quickly as the Trojans had his number on this day. With one out leadoff man Dru Rymer earned a walk from Nicely to put Troy in business. Edgar Ramirez and Tom King followed with back-to-back singles of their own to push Troy's second run across. Later in the inning a Blake Green single scored two more for the Trojans to tie the game and make this one a nail-biter coming down the stretch.

Bianucci led the way for the Tigers with three hits on the night. Boutwell was the only other Auburn player with more than one hit as he added two hits and one run scored on the night. For the game Auburn had 11 hits while Troy had just five with Martinez adding two.

Box Score

The Tigers return to action Friday at 4 p.m. when they take on Elon for the first of three games this weekend at Plainsman Park. Game times are 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday's start is set for 1 p.m.


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