Opening Day A Success For Baseball Tigers

Auburn got two home runs and the pitching allowed just five hits to earn the win over East Tennessee State.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn used strong starting pitching and timely hitting to get the 2008 baseball season off to a good start as Luke Greinke gave up three hits in six innings and Mike Bianucci smashed a first inning two-run home run to put the Tigers ahead for good on the way to a 6-3 win over East Tennessee State at Plainsman Park.

In just his second career college start, Greinke was solid in the season opener as he threw 77 pitches and gave up just a pair of earned runs to pick up the win. Relievers Michael Hurst, Evan Crawford and Bryan Woodall put the finishing touches on a very good opening day of pitching for the Tigers, says Coach Tommy Slater.

"I thought our pitching staff did a great job today," Slater notes. "I was really happy with Luke's start. Other than the leadoff walk in the second I thought he pitched really well. We don't want to walk a guy after putting up a two-spot in the first. Other than that he commanded the zone. He had great presence on the mound and did a nice job.

"We wanted to get each of our guys out of the bullpen an inning today," he adds. "The first night out we really wanted to get all of those guys in the game. I thought Hursty did a nice job. That angle is just tough for a lot of hitters. Crawford, what can you say, three hitters and three punch-outs. Woody did a tremendous job as well. His breaking ball really broke them down.

The pitching made up for a lackluster day at the plate for the Tigers. Freshman Justin Hargett was the only player with two hits on a day when the team had 10 total hits. Slater says that's something he wasn't pleased with and he hopes it's an opening day thing.

"There were too many easy outs," Slater says. "Too many fly balls today. That's not us. We need to be hitting line drives. We need to be hitting hard ground balls and putting some kind of pressure on the defense."

Auburn wasted little time in showing off some power at the plate although it was small ball that set the table in the first inning. Leading off the game, true freshman Trent Mummey worked the count to full after falling behind 0-2 and reached on an infield single. The speedy center fielder then stole second before moving to third on a Brian Fletcher fly ball to center. That set the stage for Bianucci as he drilled the first pitch he saw deep over the left field wall for a quick 2-0 Auburn lead.

"I was actually sitting on a fastball and he hung a slider," Bianucci says. "It actually sped up my bat. I just hit it where it was pitched."

Luke Greinke gave up two earned runs on three hits in six innings. He struck out three and walked two.

East Tennessee State came back to cut into the Auburn lead in the top of the second as Chris Rankhorn scuffed a RBI single just inside the first base bag to push across the first run of the game for the Buccaneers.

Auburn got the run back in the bottom of the inning as a one-out single by junior catcher Ryan Jenkins got the Tigers started. True freshman Justin Hargett followed with a single through the right side to give the Tigers runners on first and second with still just one out. A fly ball to center field failed to move the runners up, but a Fletcher double to left easily scored Jenkins to make it 3-1 Auburn.

With Greinke in control on the mound the Tigers extended the lead in the bottom of the third again thanks to the long ball. Looking for a pitch to drive, big freshman designated hitter Kevin Patterson drilled his first career home run over the wall in left field to make it 4-1 Auburn. A Jenkins ground ball in the fifth made gave the Tigers a four-run lead as Joseph Sanders scored following a leadoff single to start the inning.

Freshman Kevin Patterson went 1-2 with a solo home run and walked twice in the victory.

East Tennessee State chipped away at Auburn's lead with a single run in the sixth, Greinke's last inning, and another single run in the seventh off the sophomore Hurst. Crawford came on in the top of the eighth to hold the two-run advantage and retired ETSU three up and three down.

Looking to add to the lead in the bottom of the eighth, Hargett again reached base, this time earning a walk to start things. A sacrifice bunt by Mummey moved him to second where he scored on a double by Ben Jones. Jones came in a defensive replacement for Fletcher in the top of the inning.

Following yet another walk to Bianucci, his fourth of the game, freshman Hunter Morris lifted a fly ball deep to the valley in left center field that was run down for the second out of the inning. Jones advanced to third on the play, but was stranded on a fly ball to left to end the eighth with Auburn up 6-3.

Woodall closed out the game with a perfect ninth to earn the save.

Auburn will take on ETSU in game two of the series at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Plainsman Park. True freshman Cory Luckie will get the start for the Tigers.

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