Sun Devils Blast Tigers In Series Opener

A big first inning boosted Arizona State to an easy win over Auburn in Friday night's opening game in Tempe, Ariz.

Tempe, Ariz.--Baseball paradise in sunny Arizona turned into a house of horrors Friday night for the Auburn Tigers (8-6) as the Arizona State Sun Devils (12-5) scored six runs in the first inning and never looked back on the way to a 14-2 blowout in the first game of a three-game set.

Struggling from the outset against a hot-hitting Arizona State team, Auburn pitchers allowed 18 hits, walked five and hit four Sun Devils on a night when things just didn't go right. For the Tigers both Tyler Johnstone and Andy Bennett had two hits, but Auburn couldn't string things together in a big loss.

Starting in place of junior Chris Dennis, who is back in Auburn with tendonitis problems in his arm, freshman Bryan Woodall took the loss for the Tigers. In four innings of work the Phenix City native allowed eight runs on seven hits as the Sun Devils jumped out to a commanding lead. It didn't have to be that way early though as shaky defense cost the Tigers.

"They hit rockets all over the field," Coach Tommy Slater said. "I thought Bryan settled in after that first and put up a couple of zeros for us. I'm proud of Bryan competing the way he did for us after that first inning. A couple of walks there and a couple of hit batters and an error, you can't give a team as good as them more than three outs in an inning. That's just not good.

"I thought our kids competed hard the whole game," he added. "We didn't give away any at-bats. We continued to play hard on defense. We just have to come out tomorrow and get ourselves going again. Our pre-game was great. Our kids have been working their tails off. We just need to continue that work ethic."

Leading off the game, Ryan Sontag tripled just inside the bag at first base on a ground ball that Auburn's Andy Bennett almost snagged. Settling down, Woodall got the next two ASU hitters on strikes before standout freshman Ike Davis hit a high fly ball deep into center field that went for a ground rule double. On the play Auburn freshman Luke Greinke misplayed the ball and could have easily caught it for the final out of the inning.

Woodall pitched well at times, but couldn't escape trouble in two big innings.

It proved to be a big play as catcher Preston Paramore earned a walk in the next at-bat and was followed by a single from Joe Persichina to load the bases with still two outs. C.J. Retherford then hit a ground ball that Mike Bianucci couldn't handle at third base. The error allowed another run to score. Before things were done the Sun Devils had six on the board thanks to another walk followed by a triple off the bat of J.J. Sfera.

With Arizona State starter Jeff Urlaub cruising on the mound the Tigers needed to settle down in the field and they did just that with two scoreless innings the next two frames out before the Sun Devils went back to work in the fourth. With one out Ryan Sontag reached on a single and Collin Curtis followed with a single of his own to put a runner into scoring position. Following an error by Woodall that moved the runners to second and third he hit the next two batters to force in a run. Persichina then singled home another run as ASU took a commanding 8-0 lead after four.

Auburn finally made some noise in the top of fifth as Bennett led off with a single and left fielder Jeff Boutwell followed with a double that could have put the Tigers in business. The only problem was that ASU misplayed the ball in left just enough that Bennett rounded third and headed for home. Getting the ball easily to the plate in time, Bennett was out on a collision at the plate. The play quickly put the teams on edge, but cooler heads prevailed. It did take the winds out of Auburn's sails though as they failed to score in the inning and trailed 8-0 going to the bottom of the fifth.

On to replace Woodall, Auburn freshman Paul Burnside wouldn't fare well in his road debut as Sogard homered to start the inning and it was just the beginning for the Sun Devils as they would add four more runs off Burnside before fellow reliever Andy Masten shut the door on the inning with ASU leading 13-0.

The long bright spot on the night for the Tigers was the hitting of senior second baseman Tyler Johnstone. Extending his on-base streak to 24 games when he singled in the sixth inning, Johnstone completed his good night with a two-run home run to left in the eighth that finally put the Tigers on the board. It was his first career home run and gave the Auburn offense some confidence for a moment as Bruce Edwards singled to center field to follow. In a capsule of the night as a whole for the Tigers, Josh Donaldson lined into a double play to end the inning with the Tigers trailing 13-2.

The Sun Devils added another run in the bottom of the inning off Auburn reliever Brandon Teague to make the final 14-2. Arizona State was led at the plate by Davis. The outstanding freshmanhad four hits and seven RBI on the night.

Slater said that the Tigers just have to forget this game and turn the ball over to sophomore Brett Butts and hope they get the ship righted on Saturday.

"We all know Brett has three quality pitches," Slater said. "He just needs to get out there and throw strikes and mix his pitches well. Just give us an opportunity."

The first pitch for Saturday's game is scheduled for 2 p.m. central time.

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