Auburn, Ala.--Auburn continued its hot streak on the diamond as the 13th-ranked Tigers used a six-run third inning to defeat Davidson 10-4 Tuesday night at Plainsman Park. Three Auburn pitchers combined to allow Davidson just three hits over the final five innings as the Tigers overcame a sluggish start and a two-run deficit to earn the victory. The win improves Auburn to 14-2 on the season while Davidson falls to 8-2.
"We weren't good tonight," Coach Tommy Slater says. "We missed signs. We won the game and did what we had to do to win but I'm not real happy wit the way we played tonight."
Even though the Tigers got the victory, it wasn't the best of outings for Auburn starter Taylor Thompson. The Montgomery native pitched four innings, giving up four earned runs on six hits and striking out eight Davidson hitters. Although his start wasn't great, Slater says he was proud of Thompson for the way he finished off his four innings of work.
"This was the first outing where he was actually getting stronger at the end," Slater says. "In the first three, as he got near the end of his pitch count, you could tell he was tiring. Tonight when he finished the fourth, he was getting stronger. He's a big, strong kid and it was good to see him at the end of his pitch count getting stronger and throwing the ball better."
Things didn't start well for Thompson and the Tigers as Davidson's Zach Kayne lined a out to center field to open the game for a sign of things to come. Up next, Matt Webb singled sharply to right field. Following a strikeout, a Rob Wilson single and and Gregory Zage double pushed across two runs to give Davidson the early advantage.
Taylor Thompson earned his second win of the season and struck out eight in four innings.
Down two coming to the plate in the bottom of the first, Auburn wasted little time getting the offense going as Bruce Edwards led off with a bunt single. Following a Luke Greinke fly out it was Josh Donaldson time. Getting a pitch to drive, Donaldson lifted his seventh home run of the season over the wall in left field. The blast gave the junior 25 RBI on the season and tied the score at two heading to the second.
Thompson would again struggle in the second inning as a one-out walk opened the flood gates for Davidson as, following another strikeout, Kayne reached on a bunt single that Donaldson threw away at first to move the runner to third with just one out. Another walk by Thompson loaded the bases for Alden Crissey and the big first baseman singled to center field to score two and give Davidson back the lead.
Behind once again, this time 4-2, Auburn put an exclamation point on this game with a huge third inning. Leading things off, Greinke ripped a sharp single to left field that get the rally going. Up next, Donaldson was hit by a pitch to bring Bianucci to the plate. A little over-aggressive against the slow throwing hurler from Davidson, Bianucci popped up on the infield for the first out of the inning. That would bring Robert Brooks to the plate. With a single already on the evening, Brooks worked a walk to load the bases for Bennett.
Struggling early in the season, Bennett appeared to come out of his slump somewhat last weekend against Arizona State. He continued his climb on Tuesday night as he drove a double into the gap in right-center. The hit scored all three Auburn runners to put the Tigers in front 5-4. Bennett says after his slow start it felt good to give the team a lift offensively.
"It has been really frustrating," Bennett says. "It is my senior year and nobody tries to go out their senior year struggling at times. Hopefully times are changing and turning around and going my way now."
A Ross Smith infield single put runners on the corners for true freshman catcher Dustin Spruill and he also delivered, getting one into the gap in right field for a double. The hit scored both Bennett and Smith to give Auburn a four-run lead. Advancing to third on the throw to the plate, Spruill scored moments later on a RBI groundout by Eric Skinner. It was Skinner's 17th run batted in of the season and gave the Tigers a commanding 8-4 advantage heading to the fourth.
From that point forward this game was all about Auburn's pitching. Davidson had six hits in the first three innings but would manage just three hits in the final six innings as Thompson, Butts and Hubbard combined to strike out 13 hitters in the victory. Slater says that once again his pitching was extraordinary with the bullpen again picking up the pace with five scoreless innings. In a game the Tigers would have likely lost last season because of a lack of pitching depth, this time around Auburn won easily and Slater says that is because of one thing only.
"The difference is what is on the on the mound and how we are pitching," Slater says. "We didn't come out with the greatest approach and focus tonight but when you can pitch it just gives you an opportunity to win."
Cruising on the mound with Butts in the game, Auburn would add a single run in the fifth as Skinner led things off with a double to the gap in left field. After advancing to third on an Edwards fly ball, the freshman would score on a Greinke ground ball to second base. Another single run in the seventh put the finishing touches on this game as Skinner again got the offense started with a double, this time to right field. After advancing to third on a wild pitch, he would score on a two-out double by Donaldson off the wall in left field. Hubbard pitched the final two innings of scoreless baseball as Auburn won handily 10-4.
Offensively the Tigers were led by Donaldson, Skinner, and Brooks with two hits each. Donaldson had a homer and a double on the night while Skinner added two doubles. Bennett added a double and three RBI as part of Auburn's 11-hit attack.
Auburn returns to action this weekend when the Tigers take on Purdue in a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times for the series are scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 Sunday afternoon.