Offensively the Tigers had one of their better games with 10 hits, but couldn't slow down a Troy offense that is finding its stride at just the right time. Entering the game the Trojans had won four games in a row and had seven players hitting over .400 during that stretch. Coach Tommy Slater said that on this night the Tigers just couldn't find an answer for the Troy offense until it was too late.
"There were a lot of positives tonight despite the loss," Slater said. "I'm very disappointed to lose anytime, but our kids competed and played hard. I thought we had very good at-bats tonight. We worked real hard yesterday on a lot of situational hitting and had a great round of BP (batting practice) today. I thought our kids came out and had a lot of hard contact in the right parts of the field today. I thought our work really showed up, a re-commitment to the way we want to approach the game on offense.
"I also thought we had some positives on the mound," Slater added. "Bryan Woodall is a stud. Tonight he got hit, but he kept throwing it in the strike zone and they hit it. Andy Masten came in behind him and did a fine job. Then Paul Burnside for the second outing in a row was really, really good. That's a freshman out there throwing 90-92 (MPH) with a really good breaking ball. He's really competing for us…I'm just proud of our kids' effort. I'm not happy that we're losing. The kids aren't and I'm not either. The effort was there and the kids played hard. They're working at it and we'll be back out there tomorrow trying to get better."
Early on Auburn had a chance to build the lead against the Trojans as a one-out single in the first by Russell Dixon gave the Tigers some life. In left field for just the second time this season, freshman Mike Bianucci singled to follow and just like that Auburn was in business. A walk to third baseman Josh Donaldson loaded the bases with still just one out, but first baseman Andy Bennett managed only a ground ball to first. The play did score a run for the Tigers, but that would be the end of the threat as Ryan Stanley struck out to end the inning with Auburn up 1-0.
Woodall cruised through the first, but that would be the only easy inning of a short night for the freshman as Josh Dew led off with a single in the second to start a big inning for the Trojans. One out later former Auburn player Mike Felix singled to left to bring Nick Smith to the plate. Getting a ground ball that potentially could have been two, Woodall did his job. Unfortunately Tyler Johnstone couldn't handle it cleanly and was able to get just one out at first. Jared Keel followed with a bunt single to score Dew from third and bring Josh Blackwell to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive, Blackwell drove one deep over the wall for his first home run of the season. The blast gave the Trojans a 4-1 lead and signaled the beginning of the end for Woodall.
Following another scoreless inning from the Tigers in the top of the third, Troy put the finishing touches on Woodall in the bottom of the inning. Leading off, red hot Tom King doubled to left field and Edgar Ramirez followed with a single of his own to score King to make it 5-1 Trojans. Josh Dew then hit a ground ball that Johnstone couldn't handle at second. The play put runners on first and second with still nobody out in the inning.
A sacrifice bunt put two runners in scoring position by Felix and he again delivered, this time with a double a 0-2 pitch to score both Ramirez and Dew. That would be it for Woodall as Masten came on to close the doors on the inning, but not before Troy took a commanding 7-1 lead.
Auburn began to peck away at the lead in the top of the fourth on a solo home run by Donaldson, his third of the year. Bennett then reached first after striking out, but was promptly picked off first base during a Stanley at-bat that ended in a flyout to center. It proved to be a big play as Justin Bristow singled just before Jonathan Rasberry was hit by a pitch. That would have been a bases loaded situation for the Tigers, but instead a strikeout by Luke Greinke put an end to the Auburn threat.
Troy extended its lead with two more runs in the bottom of the fourth before the Tigers again fought back in the fifth. Leading off, Johnstone earned a walk and advanced to second on a single by Dixon. A wild pitch moved the runners up a base and Bianucci made that pay off with a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Johnstone. On the throw Dixon moved up to third and scored later in the inning on a single by Stanley.
With Burnside on in relief and doing a solid job of keeping the Trojans at bay, the Tigers went back for more in the seventh. After a King solo shot extended the Troy lead to 10-4 in the bottom of the sixth, Auburn was looking to make a game of it and did just that. Leading off, Bianucci walked and, following a Donaldson strikeout, pinch hitter Derek Sain hit his first home run of the season to right field to make it 10-6 Trojans. Stanley then followed suit with a solo shot as well to make the lead just three. Following a Bristow groundout, Rasberry singled to keep the inning alive. Troy would then bring Felix to the mound and he struck out Josh Stapleton to end the inning.
Stanley had two hits on the night and looks to be coming around offensively after a terrible start to the 2006 season.
Troy would add two insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth to put the game away as the Trojans improved to 10-1 at home this season and won their fifth in a row overall. For the Tigers it was the fourth straight loss and the ninth loss in the last 13 games.
Auburn returns to action this weekend when the Tigers take on Top 25 Kentucky in a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times for the weekend are 7 p.m. on Friday, 4 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.