Auburn, Ala.--For the second consecutive Friday night the Auburn Tigers were looking for a good starting pitching performance and they got just that as sophomore Bryan Woodall was outstanding over six innings to lead the Tigers to a 9-2 victory over UNC Greensboro at Plainsman Park. Auburn improves to 4-1 on the season while UNCG falls to 0-1.
Coming off a seven inning shutout in the season opener last week against Hofstra, Woodall was almost as dominant on a bitterly cold afternoon against UNCG. Giving up just five hits and one unearned run in six innings while striking out four, Woodall improves to 2-0 on the season. Coach Tommy Slater says that Woodall's performance was very good considering the cold weather he had to deal with.
"I thought Bryan threw very well," Slater says. "He came out and dominated the strike zone on a Friday night for us once again. When he's on the mound we play tremendous defense behind him. Our kids are anticipating strikes early in the count and they know there are going to be balls in play. Our kids come out ready to play behind Brian."
At the plate the day was all about senior center fielder Bruce Edwards. Collecting three hits in three at-bats, including a triple, with two walks and two stolen bases Edwards was a one-man wrecking crew for the Auburn offense. While he doesn't bring a lot of pop to the lineup Slater says Edwards' ability to run creates havoc for opposing teams.
"He's taking his walks too," Slater says of Edwards. "His on-base percentage is really high right now. Even the other night he had three walks in the game. There's not many kids in college baseball that run like he does. He's just such a threat on the bases and pressures other teams. Even his infield hit tonight that shortstop knew he had to go and turn it around real quick and it caused a bobble. He's the kind of kid that can really pressure the other team."
Edwards leads the Tigers with a .500 batting average through five games this season.
Auburn got on the board in the bottom of the first as Edwards got things going by earning a walk from UNC Greensboro starter Nick Starnes. Perfect since the end of the 2005 season in stolen bases, Edwards quickly swiped second to get into scoring position for Luke Greinke. Getting a pitch to hit Greinke drilled a sharp single to center field that easily scored Edwards to give the Tigers the early lead. Greinke followed with a steal of second with a Josh Donaldson hit by a pitch putting runners on first and second. After Mike Bianucci popped up for the second out of the inning Andy Bennett singled to center field to put the Tigers up 2-0 after one.
With Woodall in command on the mound Auburn came back for more in the bottom of the second. With one out in the inning shortstop Eric Skinner singled to center field but was caught stealing for the second out. That's when the Tigers would explode on offense as an Edwards triple lit a fire under Auburn. Back to back walks to Greinke and Donaldson brought Bianucci to the plate. The big sophomore ripped a sharp single to left that scored Edwards to make it 3-0 Auburn. Bennett followed with fly ball to left that was misplayed by UNCG left fielder Scott Schneider. The ball fell in for a double that scored all three runners to give Woodall and the Tigers a commanding 6-0 lead.
The Tigers would add a single run in the third as a Bianucci infield single scored catcher Dustin Spruill. UNCG finally answered back in the top of the fifth off Woodall to end the pitcher's scoreless inning streak at 11 2/3 innings to start the season. Scheider led the inning off with a single to center field but Woodall would come back to get the next two hitters on fly ball outs to Bianucci in left. With two outs Woodall got what looked to be the final out of the inning when Corey Overholtzer's ground ball headed to short but Skinner booted the ground ball to put runners on the corners for Tim Carrier. The UNCG lead off man would deliver as he singled to center to score Schneider and make it 7-1 Tigers.
Auburn continued to chip away as the Tigers added another single run in the fifth and once again Edwards was in the middle of things. Leading off with a bunt single, Edwards stole second and moved to third on a ground ball by Greinke. Donaldson then did his job by hitting a fly ball to right that easily scored Edwards to put the Tigers up 8-1. In his last inning of work Woodall pitched a scoreless sixth before Auburn added another run in the bottom of the inning on an Edwards infield single that scored freshman Joseph Sanders. Ahead 9-1 the Tigers turned the ball over to the bullpen to take the Friday game home.
Butts would come on and get the Spartans out in the seventh but UNCG would add a run in the eighth. With one out in the inning Matt Gaski reached on a walk from Butts to bring Guy Welsh to the plate. Getting a pitch to hit to right field, Welsh drove a liner just over the head of Sanders at first base for a double. Gaski scored to make the score 9-2. It could have been another run if not for a great play by Brooks at second. Scheider hit a ground ball into the hole at second that could have easily been a run scoring season but Brooks made the diving grab and threw to first to end the inning. With a seven-run lead the Tigers closed out the victory in the ninth to improve to 4-1.
In addition to Edwards' standout day Bianucci, Bennett and Brooks all had two hits for the Tigers with Bennett adding four RBI. It was the fourth two-hit game for Brooks already this season. On the mound reliever Brett Butts came on to pitch the last three innings of the game, allowing one run on two hits and striking out three.
The Tigers return to action Saturday at 2 p.m. when they face UNC Greensboro in the second game of a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Sophomore Paul Burnside gets the call on the mound for Auburn against left-hander Ryan Falcon from UNCG.