Dixon Powers Tigers To Comeback Win

Auburn, Ala.--Following a two-hit game out of the second spot in the Auburn batting order on Sunday, sophomore Russell Dixon showed why he may belong there for good Tuesday with a three-hit performance that included two home runs as Auburn's defeated Davidson 8-6 Tuesday at Plainsman Park.

The win moves Auburn to 8-5 overall on the season while the Wildcats fall to 5-2.

In a game that saw the Tigers take an early lead, fall behind, and then use Dixon's second home run in the sixth to take the lead again, Auburn had its chances but couldn't get the production needed out of the middle of the order. Coach Tommy Slater said that the move of Dixon to the two-hole gave his team a lift and he did it almost by himself on Tuesday.

"Dix has done a nice job," Slater said. "When he thinks about hitting the ball in the middle of the field he's a very good hitter and then he shows the power that he has. When Dix is going bad he's going to be ripping foul balls way down the right field line 150 feet foul. The thing that was really neat about Dix tonight was the line drive to left, a hard hit ball to that side of the field.

"He was really concentrating on a middle of the field approach and it showed up with a couple of home runs for him, one to right-center and one to right. Those balls stayed true and when a ball stays true and it doesn't start tailing it means the guy has really gotten through the ball. It just shows you what a good approach he had."

Dixon has five hits since being moved into the number two spot in the order.

On the mound the Tigers were led by the pitching of junior reliever Johnny Thompson. Coming on in the sixth inning with the game tied at five, Thompson allowed just one hit and no runs on the way to his first career victory. Slater said that Thompson's pitching has been a big bright spot for the team as he looks to strengthen the bullpen heading into SEC play.

"Johnny just has the right mentality," Slater said. "We preach to our guys about filling up the strike zone and not being afraid of contact and Johnny Thompson certainly isn't. He doesn't have the stuff of a (John) Madden, but he's got a couple of different arm angles, he keeps hitters off balance, and guys can't get comfortable on him in there.

"He also attacks the strike zone and that's what we expect our pitchers to do," Slater added. "We didn't do a real good job of it early in the game, but at the end I thought we did a good job of it."

Early on the Tigers played small ball to perfection as a Jeff Boutwell walk to open the second started a rally for Auburn as Mike Bianucci followed with a single into left to put the club in business. Looking to move the runners up, catcher Jonathan Rasberry put down a perfect sacrifice bunt that he was able to beat out for a base hit.

Up next, shortstop Justin Bristow singled to left to easily score Boutwell with the game's first run. Back-to-back sacrifice flies by Luke Greinke and Tyler Johnstone plated two more runs for Auburn as the Tigers took an early 3-0 lead.

As it usually does, a leadoff walk in the third by Auburn starter Clarence Nicely sparked the inning for Davidson as two singles in the inning and a sacrifice fly scored two for the Wildcats as Auburn's lead evaporated to just one after three innings.

Davidson would add two more in the fourth and one in the fifth to take the 5-3 advantage after the Tigers struggled on the mound. Reliever Grant Cardwell had a rough day, allowing two runs on two hits while walking three in just two/thirds of an inning.

Freshman Paul Burnside gave up one run and got things calmed before Thompson took over. Slater said the day wasn't a good one for his club on the mound until late in the game.

Down two the Tigers got back into the game thanks to Dixon. In the bottom of the fifth Johnstone put down a bunt single to get things going and the Houston sophomore followed with his second home run of the season to tie the game.

In the sixth Dixon again delivered for the Tigers. A Bristow walk started the inning on the right foot and, following a Greinke groundout, a Johnstone single again brought Dixon to the plate with runners on first and second. Getting a pitch to hit, he lifted it deep over the wall in right for a three-run shot to put the Tigers up once again.

"He (Slater) has been real big on having a good middle of the field approach," Dixon said. "That has always been my thing. I was talking with Coach (Karl) Nonemaker, and the times I try to get big and hit the ball harder are the times when I don't do that. When I hit the ball up the middle that's when I find myself having success."

Reliever Peter Wiggins held on to the lead in the ninth despite some trouble to earn his first save as the Tigers won by the final of 8-6. In addition to Dixon's big night at the plate, Bianucci added three hits for the Tigers while Johnstone continued his torrid start with two hits and two runs scored.

Auburn returns to action this weekend when the Tigers travel to Tempe, Ariz. to face the Arizona State Sun Devils in a three-game series. Game times are 8 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. All times are central.

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