Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers came out looking for a little revenge Tuesday afternoon and got just what they had hoped for as they pounded the Troy Trojans 11-3 to improve to 7-1 on the season. After losing two of three to Troy last season Auburn sophomore Mike Bianucci says the team was focused on getting the job done to open their rivalry this season.
"We were definitely looking forward to this game," Bianucci says. "We owe them a little something for last year. They are a good team, a real good team. We just really owed them a lot for last year because we remember what happened. That helped us a lot in preparing for this game."
Using a potent offense and a solid pitching performance by true freshman starter Taylor Thompson, Auburn jumped out to an early lead and never looked back on the way to the victory. Getting his first career victory, Thompson allowed just two runs on four hits in four innings. Coach Tommy Slater says that Thompson was very good and had things going against a good Trojan offense.
"I'm very impressed with all of our pitchers but Taylor, as everyone knows, had great stuff coming out of high school," Slater says. "The big question mark with Taylor was could he harness his stuff? He's certainly done that in two outings. He's commanding the strike zone, both sides of the plate with his fastball, and I thought he threw the slider very well tonight…the young man has gone out and commanded the strike zone. When you combine that with power stuff you get pretty good results."
At the plate the Tigers were led by four players with two hits as Josh Donaldson, Mike Bianucci, Robert Brooks and Ross Smith all had two hits. The four players accounted for eight of Auburn's 11 hits on a day when Slater says they did a lot of things right offensively.
"I thought our kids came out and played hard in every phase of the game," Slater says. "I thought we did some good things today. We had some doubles and obviously Nuc's (Bianucci) bomb was good but I thought we short-gamed it pretty well."
Auburn wasted little time jumping on the visiting Trojans on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon at Plainsman Park. Leading off the first the Tigers got things rolling early as Bruce Edwards and Luke Greinke reached on back-to-back walks to bring the meat of the Auburn order to the plate. Wasting little time increasing his team-leading RBI total, Donaldson singled to left field to score Edwards and draw first blood for the Tigers. It was just the start of one of the best innings of the year for Auburn as Bianucci followed with a single to load the bases with nobody out.
Following an Andy Bennett strike out it was time for the freshmen to deliver as Brooks doubled to the gap in right-center to score two runs and push the lead to three. Fellow freshman Smith then ripped a single to right field to score Brooks and make it 4-0 Auburn. That would be the end of the day for Troy starter Ryan Ellison as he lasted just one/third of an inning. A new pitcher didn't change Auburn's fortunes any as shortstop Eric Skinner put down a sacrifice bunt to score Brooks for the final run and a five-run advantage for Thompson after one inning of play.
After a one-two-three inning for the Trojans in the top of the second, Auburn went scoreless as well to bring Troy back to the plate where they put Thompson to the test. After retiring the leadoff man, Thompson gave up back-to-back singles to Brett Pierce and Ian Craze to put the Trojans in business. A walk to Steven Felix loaded the bases with just one out but that's all the damage Troy would muster as Thompson struck out Brett Henry before getting Clint Robinson to fly out to center field to end the threat.
The Tigers would add to their lead in the bottom of the third and Bianucci got things off to a bang with a long solo home run over the batter's eye in center field. The blast was the third of the season for Bianucci and gave Auburn a six-run advantage. He says that he was waiting on a pitch and got just what he was looking for.
"I knew they were probably going to start me with first pitch fastball," Bianucci says. "I was going to sit on it and try to hit it back up the middle. I did."
Bianucci is congratulated after his mammoth home run on Tuesday.
Energized after watching the long home run, Bennett followed with a double to right field. Brooks then got his second hit of the game as he singled sharply to left field but was thrown out after getting caught between first and second. A triple by Smith scored Bennett to make the score 7-0 Tigers heading to the fourth.
After escaping trouble in the third Thompson wouldn't be as fortunate in the fourth inning as he walked leadoff man Matt Tanzi to bring left fielder Kevin Weidlich to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive, Weidlich drilled a two-run shot over the right field wall to put the Trojans on the scoreboard. That would be the end of the rally though as, despite giving up a single, Thompson finished the fourth with a 7-2 advantage.
Smith slides into third base for his first triple of the season and is currently hitting .353 on the year.
Auburn again delivered on offense and quickly erased the two runs put up by the Trojans in the top of the fourth inning. With one out Greinke was hit by a pitch to bring Donaldson to the plate. Once again doing his job, Donaldson doubled to left field to put runners on first and second for Bianucci. Drilling a ground ball to third that was bobbled by Brett Henry, Bianucci reached as the throw to first pulled Robinson off the bag. The error allowed Greinke and Donaldson to score and push the lead back to seven.
Butts would come on to work a perfect fifth inning before the Tigers went back to work on offense to again score a pair of runs. Skinner got things started with an infield single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Stringer. Another Edwards walk brought Greinke to the plate where he singled sharply to right to score Skinner. A Donaldson ground ball plated the final run for the Tigers as Edwards scored to push Auburn back to an 11-2 advantage.
Dennis would come on for a scoreless seventh inning before the Trojans would scratch for a single run in the eighth. Johnny Thompson came on to finish off the victory in the ninth inning.
The Tigers return to action this weekend in Mobile as they take on Jacksonville Friday, Michigan State Saturday and South Alabama Sunday as part of the Coca-Cola Classic. Game times for the weekend are 2:30 p.m. on Friday and Sunday and 4:30 Saturday afternoon.