Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's struggles at the plate were a thing of the past on Tuesday, at least for one night, as the Tigers pounded out 22 hits in a 22-6 victory over Mercer at Plainsman Park. Luke Greinke and Joseph Sanders both had four hits while Dustin Spruill added three hits and five RBI as the Tigers won for the fifth time in six games to improve to 24-12 on the season and equal their win total for all of last season. Coach Tommy Slater says the win was as complete offensively as his team has been this season and it comes at just the right time.
"It was a very mature approach at the plate tonight by the entire ballclub," Slater says. "You can't try to add power to guys who are throwing soft. That had been an issue for us early in the season against kids like that but I thought our kids came out with a very mature approach. We had a lot of line drives. It was good to see."
On the mound the Tigers did a solid but not great job against Mercer. Starter Evan Crawford went four innings to get the victory as the designated pitcher. He allowed five hits and two earned runs. Austin Hubbard followed, allowing four hits and two earned runs in three innings. Scott Shuman closed things out by also allowing two earned runs in two innings of work. Slater says the pitching was good but not great by his club Tuesday night.
"It was really good to get Shuman back out there again," Slater says. "I was really pleased with that. He threw the ball in the strike zone and that was really good to see. I thought Austin did a nice job as well."
Tuesday's game was over with early despite the Bears getting on the board first against Crawford. Following a leadoff infield single by Matt Crawford and a stolen base to move into scoring position, a sacrifice bunt by Billy Shaughnessy left him 90 feet away with just one out in the first. Mercer then took the lead for the only time on the night as a sacrifice fly by Josh Thompson scored Crawford to make it 1-0 Bears.
Auburn answered with the first of three big offensive innings on the night. Following a walk to Bruce Edwards to start things, Greinke had his first hit of the night, a single to center field, to put two runners on for Josh Donaldson. Struggling last weekend against LSU, Donaldson put the bad play behind him as he drilled a single to score Donaldson. After a groundout by Spruill that forced Greinke at third, singles by Sanders, Robert Brooks and Ross Smith gave Auburn a commanding 4-0 advantage. One out later Eric Skinner's double scored both Brooks and Smith to make it a five-run lead for the Tigers after just one inning of play.
Joseph Sanders had four hits to improve his average to a team-leading .367 for the season.
The lead moved to six in the second inning on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Sanders before Auburn broke the game open for good with four more runs in the third. With no outs and runners on first and third, Edwards singled sharply to right field where Mercer's John Dortch made a great throw to the plate to cut down Jenkins for the first out. Another Greinke single scored Skinner to make it 8-1 Auburn before a Donaldson double pushed two more across. The final run of the frame came on a Spruill sacrifice fly as the Tigers led 11-1 heading to the fourth.
Mercer scored single runs in the fourth off Crawford and the fifth off Hubbard before Auburn's offense again went off in the bottom of the fifth. Getting a pitch to drive, Skinner doubled to left field to start the inning off right. Following a walk to Edwards, an infield single by Greinke scored Skinner and left the Tigers with runners on first and second. Following a fielder's choice from Donaldson, a single by Spruill scored two to make it 14-3. Sanders then put his stamp on this game with a two-run shot to left field. His second home run of the season put Auburn comfortably in front 16-3.
The teams traded single runs before Auburn broke out the sticks again in the bottom of the eighth inning with five runs. Spruill and Sanders again had the big blows of the inning as Spruill's two-run single was followed by a Sanders double that drove home Andy Bennett. Now up 22-4 Shuman gave up two runs in the ninth, his second inning of work, to finish things out.
Auburn returns to SEC play this weekend when the Tigers travel to Columbia to face the powerful South Carolina Gamecocks in a three-game series at Sarge-Frye Field. South Carolina enters the series 7-5 in conference play after winning two of three at Florida last weekend.