Donaldson's performance at the plate overshadowed the job Woodall did on the mound for the Tigers. In picking up his first career win the freshman from Phenix City allowed just one run on four hits in five innings while striking out eight. The eight strikeouts ties the most for the Tigers this season in a game. Coach Tommy Slater said it was good to see the freshman show the form he displayed early in the season.
"It started with our pitching performance with Bryan Woodall going out giving us five solid innings and 72 pitches," Slater said. "He mixed his pitches very well. It was a very solid start for the freshman. That's a good Mercer team. They are winning the Atlantic Sun. They have already been on the road and beat Clemson and been on the road and beat Florida as well. They're a very solid club and I'm just proud of Woodall and our hitters."
Woodall had a solid outing and said that he credits it to moving his arm angle back up. The change helped him with his breaking ball.
Donaldson wasn't the only Tiger to have an outstanding night at the plate as freshman third baseman Mike Bianucci was 4-5 while Russell Dixon added three hits and four RBI in the victory. The only dark cloud on the night came in the eighth inning when Bianucci ripped a shot off the center field wall and hobbled to first base. He came out of the game with a strained groin and his status will be evaluated throughout the week.
The Tigers wasted little time jumping ahead of the Bears in the final non-conference game of the regular season. Leading off Tyler Johnstone reached on an infield single and one out later moved to second on a single by Bianucci. Donaldson then came through for the first time on the night with a sharp single to right that scored Johnstone from second with the game's first run. A walk to Andy Bennett and a fielder's choice off the bat of Luke Greinke pushed across run number two before a Dixon single to right scored Bianucci to give the Tigers the early three-run lead.
Auburn picked up where it left off in the second as Bruce Edwards one-out bunt single start a rally for the Tigers. Following a Johnstone fly ball for out number two, Jeff Boutwell earned a walk to once again bring Bianucci to the plate. Auburn's leading hitter was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Donaldson. That wasn't a good idea on this night as the sophomore ripped a double just inside the third base bag. The hit easily scored two, but Bianucci was thrown out at the plate to end the inning with the Tigers on top 5-0.
The two teams then traded solo home runs with Bennett blasting his seventh in the bottom of the third inning before Mercer's Josh Thompson finally got to Woodall in the top of the fourth. He hit a towering shot over the scoreboard in left-center for his 13th home run of the season. That made the score 6-1 Auburn, but Donaldson would extend the lead with his next at-bat.
In the bottom of the fourth the Tigers were looking to put the game away early and Donaldson would do just that. Once again leading off, Edwards delivered his second hit of the night with a single up the middle. The speedy center fielder then stole second while Johnstone was earning a walk. A sacrifice bunt by Boutwell moved the runners into scoring position, but Bianucci failed to score them with a strikeout. That left things up to Donaldson who lifted a fly ball into left field that just cleared the green monster. It was his seventh home run of the season and gave the Tigers a commanding 9-1 advantage.
Auburn would add a single run in the fifth and two in the sixth to make it 12-1. With a group of Tiger pitchers keeping the Bears at bay throughout the game things got even uglier in the eighth as the Tigers scored five more runs. Three came on a bases clearing double by Dixon that extended the lead to 16-1. The right fielder would later score on a groundout by Edwards to make it a 16-run lead for Auburn. Bianucci's single would later score Johnstone to make the final 18-1. Donaldson said it's huge for the Tigers to head to Tuscaloosa this weekend with the momentum they've gained in recent weeks.
"We've been really swinging the bat well the last three or four weekends," Donaldson said. "Tonight we just exploded with lots of hits. We had 22 hits and most of those were hard hit balls. We had our flares, but most of them were hit hard. We've been seeing the ball well and getting some hits.
"We've got a little momentum on our side right now," he added. "Going into Tuscaloosa they're the number one team in the SEC right now. We're just going to continue to work hard and hopefully we'll pitch and play defense and hit well."
In addition to Woodall on the mound the Tigers got solid performances from both Andy Masten and Andrew Hall. The duo pitched two innings each with Hall giving up the only hit. Each also added two strikeouts to bring Auburn's total to a season-high 12 for the game.
Auburn returns to action this weekend when it travels to face arch-rival Alabama in a three-game series.