Auburn, Ala.--Purdue starting pitcher Ricky Heines came into Saturday's game against Auburn almost perfect on the season with just one earned run given up this season and a complete-game shutout of the Georgia Bulldogs to his credit but the Tigers didn't seem bothered by his accomplishments at all as they pounded Heines and the Boilermakers for 19 hits in an 11-0 victory at Plainsman Park. The win gives Auburn the series victory and moves the Tigers to 16-2 on the season while Purdue falls to 4-4.
On a day that most expected to be a pitcher's duel between Heines and Auburn starter Paul Burnside, it instead turned into a slugfest as the Tigers came out swinging early and never looked back. Pounding Heines for 10 hits and four earned runs in just four innings, Auburn got the early lead and used solid pitching from reliever Brett Butts and a stingy defense to make the lead stand up. Coach Tommy Slater says it was a complete victory in terms of how his team performed.
"I thought we were solid today in all phases of the game," Slater says. "We swung the bats well up and down the lineup. We caught the ball fairly well and again, Butts was solid out of the bullpen.
"I thought our kids did a nice job with their approach," he adds. "That is the kind of right-hander we've been struggling with this year, those soft righties that throw a lot of change ups and breaking balls. We talked about it in the scouting report on how we wanted our kids to approach this guy and I thought they did a nice job of coming out and executing today."
At the plate Auburn was outstanding with 19 hits for the day with every position player getting at least one hit in the game. Leading the way were a trio of players with three hits in Andy Bennett, Ross Smith and Ben Jones. A reserve all season, Jones got his opportunity to fill in the role of designated hitter and made the most of his first start.
"I finally got a start and I just went out there and tried to get some hits today," Jones says. "I swung it good. It's good to hear that you're getting a start. It was a good feeling."
Jones has six hits in 12 at-bats this season for the Tigers.
Auburn got the offense started early against Meyer as center fielder Luke Greinke led off the game with a single to left field. In the starting lineup for the first time this season, Ben Jones ripped a single to center field for the first of his three hits on the day. Following a Josh Donaldson ground ball that forced Jones at second, Mike Bianucci lined a single into left field to score Greinke and give the Tigers the only run they would need all day thanks to another outstanding pitching performance.
With Burnside getting through the second without giving up a run, Auburn went back to work at the plate as Bennett led off the bottom of the inning with a double to left field. Smith followed with a single to left field to put runners on the corners with nobody out for fellow freshman Joseph Sanders. Although the hit parade wouldn't continue with Sanders, he pushed the run across on a ground ball to put Auburn up 2-0. Eric Skinner then continued his RBI tear with a laser to left field for a double that scored Smith. Jones finished off the scoring with a single to score Skinner and make it 4-0 Tigers heading to the third.
Staked to a comfortable lead, Burnside got through five innings before giving way to Butts to start the sixth. Giving up just five hits and no runs, Burnside's line was outstanding but constantly being behind in the count and throwing 98 pitches meant for a longer day than expected for Burnside. He says while he got the win it definitely wasn't pretty.
"It wasn't too hard to see that it might have been one of the ugliest good outings that I have had in a while," Burnside says. "I was just really trying to fill up the zone. When you've got an offense like this, everybody had one or two hits today. Guys like Ben Jones, he comes through last night for us and then today hits a couple of seeds. The defense really played their tails off. Behind the plate Don (Josh Donaldson) was bouncing around looking like a cat. It's really nice to have guys like that behind you to support you when you know you don't have your best stuff."
Heading to the bottom of the fifth, Auburn was looking to build on its lead and the freshmen were again a big part of things. Leading off, second baseman Robert Brooks singled to right field. After moving to second on a sacrifice bunt by Bennett, the Enterprise native scored on a Sanders single to right field. It was the second RBI of the day for Sanders and gave Auburn a 5-0 advantage.
With Butts cruising on the mound in the sixth, the Tigers added another run to the lead in the bottom of the frame. With two outs and nobody on, Donaldson worked a walk from reliever Matt Bischoff to bring Bianucci to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive, Bianucci unloaded a double to the gap in left-center that easily scored Donaldson for Auburn's sixth run of the game.
Now with plenty of cushion to work with, Butts put the finishing touches on a solid win by the Tigers with back-to-back scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth before his offense would completely blow open the game and send a great majority of the 3,502 fans home happy. Before the Tigers were done batting they would add five runs to the total. The big blow came from reserve infielder Phillip Stringer. After four Auburn hits led to three runs before he came to the plate, Stringer drilled a double to the gap in left that scored the final two runs of the game to put Auburn up 11-0.
From there Butts took it home but not without some trouble in the ninth. With two outs and nobody on, Purdue got three consecutive singles to bring Carlos Pupo to the plate. On a day when it seemed everything turned up roses for the Tigers, a Pupo liner went right to Brooks at second base to end the game and give Auburn the series victory.
The Tigers will go for the sweep on Sunday with sophomore Evan Crawford on the mound. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Plainsman Park.