"Our team competed really, really hard for 18 innings today," Slater said. "We're never happy when you lose a series ever, but the effort and the way we competed for 18 innings of baseball today was outstanding. Especially coming from Friday night and a night when we didn't swing the bats particularly well, I thought we really swung the bat well for 18 innings today. I thought we pitched pretty well and for the most part we defended well. Elon has a nice ballclub, a very veteran ballclub, I really liked some of the things they did. What I was most proud of is that our guys came out today and competed their butts off and really got after the game."
The story of the day came from the middle of the Auburn order as catcher Josh Donaldson and first baseman Andy Bennett each had monster days for the Tigers. In the two games Donaldson finished 5-8 with a home run and four runs batted in. Not to be outdone Bennett was 4-7 with a home run and five RBI. Slater said the middle of the order, that included a grand slam from Mike Bianucci in game two, was the difference in the offense on Sunday.
"That's why they hit there," Slater said. "I really think that Mike being right there in the six-hole helps them a little bit. People look in and they're seeing that guy standing there. Mike is such a threat. He hit a lot of balls hard today and hit one big one in the second game. I think that's helpful for those guys having him a little bit behind them."
Hitting in front of Donaldson and Bennett in the number two hole, Russell Dixon had two hits and scored three runs for the Tigers.
While the pitching was solid in game one, in the second game of the twin-bill it was all freshmen day for the Tigers as starter Evan Crawford, along with relievers Bryan Woodall and Luke Greinke, combined to allow just three runs on 10 hits in the victory.
Auburn's offense got things started early against Elon in game two with a Tyler Johnstone walk setting up a solid first inning at the plate. Moved up to second in the order, right fielder Russell Dixon responded with a double to right field that scored Johnstone to give Auburn the 1-0 lead. Josh Donaldson was up next for the Tigers and he delivered with a single to put runners on first and third with still nobody out.
That brought RBI-man Andy Bennett to the plate and he came through once again, this time with a double to left to score Dixon and give the Tigers a two-run lead. A Jeff Boutwell walk followed to load the bases, but a double-play and strikeout put an end to the rally with the Tigers leading just 2-0.
With Crawford throwing a solid game on the mound the Tigers came back for more in the third and got it on one swing of the bat as Bennett hit his third home run of the season to right field to make it 3-0 Tigers. It would only be a warm-up though as Auburn broke the game wide open with an eight-run fourth.
Freshman starter Evan Crawford got his first career win as he allowed just two runs on eight hits in five innings for the victory.
After Elon got on the board with a single run in the top of the inning, Auburn went to work against Phoenix starting pitcher Steven Hensley and put the game away early. Leading off the inning, designated hitter Ryan Stanley doubled to left. Shortstop Justin Bristow followed with a double of his own into deep center field that easily scored Stanley from third after he moved up a base on a balk.
An Edwards walk next meant the end of the line for Hensley as Justin Bors came on, but he would fare even worse as, after he got Johnstone on a sacrifice bunt that moved the runners up, he hit Dixon with a pitch to load the bases for Donaldson. The catcher came through in the clutch with a double that scored two and pushed the lead to 7-3 Auburn. An error on the center fielder and a walk loaded the bases once again, this time for Bianucci. He eventually worked the count full before getting a fastball and bombing it off the brick facing of the scoreboard for a grand slam.
It was Bianucci's third home run of the season and gave Auburn a commanding 10-run lead. He said that he was sitting dead-red on a fastball and didn't miss his pitch. "We knew he had to come with a fastball. The bases were loaded and he wasn't going to throw anything off-speed. I was definitely sitting fastball there and connected with it."
Elon would add single runs in the fifth and sixth inning before the Tigers put the finishing touches on the game in the eighth. With one runner on base it was time for Donaldson to show some power. Getting a pitch to turn on, he lifted his first home run of the season over the left field wall to make it a 10-run spread once again. Greinke closed the door on the game and Donaldson said that this team is growing every day and he likes the direction they're headed.
"It was 13-3 today and our offense can be very explosive at times," Donaldson said. "Once we get a line-up that is clicking as one unit I think we'll be surprising a lot of folks this year."
The Tigers get back in action Tuesday at 4 p.m. when they take on Davidson at Plainsman Park.