In a game that saw the two teams combine to use 10 pitchers because of the short time off before weekend series, Auburn's offense got things done with seven hits and five walks at the plate, but it was the finishing that was the problem for the Tigers. On the night Auburn left eight runners on base to fall to 18-22 on the season. The win improves the 29th-ranked Trojans to 29-10 overall.
"We had lots of opportunities to score tonight, but we left way too many runners on base," Coach Tommy Slater said. "We had opportunities to score in a number of different innings and we didn't get it done. We created some opportunities but didn't capitalize on them when we needed to."
The loss was made doubly painful by the performance of Felix. After struggling in his first two seasons at Auburn, Felix transferred hoping the move would give him a fresh start. It has done just that as he picked up his second save against the Tigers this season and his third overall on the year. He said the win was big for his team as they continue to play well against top competition this season.
"It feels great," Felix said. "We're two for three against a good team. We came out clutch and it was our time to shine. They are a real good team and I'm sorry for leaving, but I had to do it. We're coming together. We're a good team and we're strong emotionally. That helps when you have team chemistry like that. When we're hitting that good and pitching that well it's kind of hard to lose."
Troy got off to a fast start against the Tigers on a breezy Wednesday night at beautiful Riverwalk Stadium. Ian Craze led things off against Auburn starter Clarence Nicely with a double just inside the bag at first base. The Trojans then played offense to perfection as back-to-back groundouts scored Craze with the game's first run.
In the second the Trojans again hit quickly as leadoff man Jared Keel reached on a bunt single and stole second to get himself into scoring position. After moving to third on a groundout by Felix, Keel scored moments later on an Edgar Ramirez single to right field. Facing a 2-0 deficit the Tigers went to work in the bottom of the inning against Troy starter J.J. Whetsel.
Leading off the inning, Donaldson was hit by a pitch to get things going for the Auburn offense. First baseman Andy Bennett followed with a single to right field to put runners on first and second with nobody out. A sacrifice bunt by Luke Greinke gave the Tigers a great shot to get on the board, but a Russell Dixon strikeout and a Justin Bristow fly ball to deep right center brought the threat to a close with Auburn down 2-0.
Following a scoreless inning of relief from Andy Masten, Auburn's bats went back to work in the third and this time the Tigers wouldn't come up empty. Leading off Josh Stapleton reached on a walk to get things going for Johnstone. Attempting to move the runner up, Johnstone put down a bunt that Whetsel threw away at first to get the inning going. The error left Auburn with runners on second and third with nobody out and the heart of the Tigers' order coming to the plate.
Bryan Woodall pitched a perfect eighth inning for the Tigers, the only Tiger pitcher to not allow a hit Wednesday night.
Continuing his hot hitting, Jeff Boutwell ripped a single into right field that scored both Stapleton and Johnstone to tie the game at two. Mike Bianucci was then hit by a pitch to bring Donaldson to the plate looking for a pitch to hit. Getting just what he wanted, Donaldson drilled a bomb deep over the train tracks behind the left field wall. The shot gave the Tigers a 5-2 lead, but it would be short lived against the powerful Trojan offense.
After a successful third Masten would get hit in the top of the fourth as a one out double by Keel put the Trojans in good shape and Felix would continue the inning with another double, this one to right field. The hit scored Keel to cut the lead to just two. Edgar Ramirez finished the scoring in the fourth as his single scored Felix to make it 5-4 Tigers.
Two more Trojan runs in the fifth off reliever Paul Burnside gave Troy back the lead at 6-5, but Auburn would make a run to get the lead back in the bottom of the inning only to come up short. With one out Bennett singled to right and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. A walk to Greinke and a single by Russell Dixon loaded the bases for Bristow, but the freshman hit into an inning-ending 4-3 double play to stifle the threat and leave the Tigers trailing heading to the sixth.
Neither team would score in the sixth, but both would come up with some offense in the seventh. Facing Peter Wiggins, the Trojans extended their lead to 7-5 before the Tigers would again put something together at the plate. Facing Felix, Donaldson struck out to lead off the inning, but reached on a wild pitch. Following a walk to Bennett, Greinke bunted both runners into scoring position. A Dixon single scored Donaldson to cut the lead to just one, but Bristow again hit into a double play to end the inning with Auburn down 7-6. Felix held the Tigers scoreless the rest of the way to give Troy the victory, but had a scare in the ninth as Donaldson drove a fastball deep into center field only to have the ball caught almost 400 feet away from home plate by Craze in center field.
Auburn was led at the plate by Bennett and Dixon, who both had two hits. Donaldson's home run and three RBI and Boutwell's two RBI weren't enough for the Tigers on this night. On the mound Nicely and Masten both allowed three hits and two runs in two innings of work. Burnside allowed two hits and one earned run in one inning while Wiggins gave up a run on one hit. Bryan Woodall and Johnny Thompson both pitched a scoreless inning for the Tigers.
For the Trojans Keel led the way at the plate with three hits while Craze, Robinson and Ramirez all added two hits. Felix was the star on the mound for Troy, allowing just one run on one hit in three innings of work.
Auburn returns to action this weekend when the Tigers travel to Gainesville to face the Florida Gators in a battle to see who stays out of the cellar in the Southeastern Conference standings.