Auburn, Ala.--Auburn scored single runs in the seventh and eighth innings to break open a tie game and defeat VMI 6-4 Friday night in front of a crowd of 2,623 at Plainsman Park.
Hunter Morris was one of three Auburn hitters with two hits as the freshman added two RBI in the win. Auburn improves to 8-4 overall while the Keydets fall to 4-5.
Freshman Bradley Hendrix got the start for the Tigers and did a solid job, allowing four runs on seven hits in five innings. Once again Auburn's bullpen was the story of the game as Austin Hubbard, Evan Crawford and Bryan Woodall combined to allow just two hits and no runs in the final four innings with Crawford picking up his second win.
"We were really glad to get Brad Hendrix out there and get him a start," Slater said. "He was tired in the fifth and we were doing everything we could to get him that inning. If he had not gotten that last out it was his last batter. Great job by Brad tonight. He's a strike thrower. He threw his breaking ball for strikes. Everything we thought about him showed up tonight.
"Hubbard's arm slot was a little lower and I think you saw better command and tilt to his breaking ball," Slater added. "I think that was really critical. Coach (Butch) Thompson and Coach (Scott) Sullivan did a really nice job this week coming out of Florida State with Austin doing some flat ground and bullpen work changing his arm slot to get him a little more feel with his pitching.
"Crawford wasn't as sharp as he was the other night, but another solid two. Woody was better tonight than he was last night. The breaking ball was really good."
Facing VMI's Trey Barham, Auburn got on the board in the first as freshman Trent Mummey led off the game with a double to left field and scored on a two-out single by Hunter Morris. The Keydets got the run back in the third, but Auburn would answer with two in the bottom of the inning.
Leading off once again, Mummey did his job by working a walk from Barham. Justin Hargett followed with a bunt single to the left side and following his lead, Mike Bianucci did the same to load the bases with nobody out. A walk to Morris gave Auburn the lead back at 2-1 and a fielder's choice off the bat of Joseph Sanders gave the Tigers a two-run lead heading to the fourth. Slater said his team's ability to play offense Friday night was the difference between winning and losing.
"Offensively Barham was really good," Slater said. "He could pitch. I think you saw tonight what Coach (Bill) Mosiello says. He's done a tremendous job of trying to help our team be a complete offense, not just a team that sits in there and bangs. We used the short game tonight and we had to, little things like getting bunts down."
Joseph Sanders had two hits, one RBI and scored a run in the win.
Auburn added to its lead in the fourth on a Hargett single to make it 4-1, but VMI responded with a big fifth inning to tie the game. With one out Justin Hess earned a walk from Hendrix to get things going. Stealing second, Hess advanced to third on a bloop double off the bat of Sam Roberts that was perfectly placed between Auburn left fielder Brian Fletcher and shortstop Matt Hall. That opened the floodgates for the Keydets as two singles and a double steal pushed across three runs to tie the game at four.
That's the way things would remain until the seventh when Auburn took the lead for good by giving VMI a taste of its own medicine. With two outs and nobody on, Bianucci walked and moved to third on a single by Morris.
Deciding to roll the dice, Auburn sent Morris to draw a throw from the VMI catcher. It worked as the ball went through to second, Morris got in a rundown, and Bianucci scored to put Auburn back in front.
Coming on in the seventh, Crawford pitched a scoreless eighth and the Tigers responded with an insurance run. Leading off the inning, third baseman Joseph Sanders doubled to left field and quickly moved to third on a Ryan Jenkins ground ball. Ben Jones followed with a single through the left side for a 6-4 Auburn lead.
Woodall closed the door in the ninth for his second save to secure the victory for the Tigers.
In addition to Morris, Hargett and Sanders both had two hits while Mummey, Bianucci and Jones rounded out a nine-hit night for the Tigers. VMI also finished with nine hits as second baseman Shane Geisslinger and first baseman Jordan Ballard each had two hits.
Saturday the Tigers will send true freshman Cory Luckie to the mound for his third start of the season and fourth outing. He is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA. Luckie will square off against junior right hander Michael Bowman (0-1, 3.00) for VMI. Game time for the contest is scheduled for 3 p.m.