Macon, Ga.--Led by a five-hit performance by Joseph Sanders and an 11-run sixth inning, the Auburn Tigers (28-25) pounded the Mercer Bears 18-6 Tuesday night to close out the non-conference portion of the 2008 schedule in style. Coach Tommy Slater said his team put together a great offensive night and a solid pitching performance after a slow start on Tuesday.
"We got some pitches to hit and they walked a couple of guys," Slater said. "We got some free base runners and got some pitches to hit and the kids had good approaches. I thought early in the game we were a little big with our swings, but we tightened them up after about the third inning. It's a good little ballpark to hit in."
Offensively the Tigers pounded out 19 hits with 10 going for extra bases led by Sanders with a homer and two doubles. Tony Caldwell added two doubles with Kevin Patterson coming off the bench with a homer, a double and a single with two RBI. Sanders said the big inning in the fourth was a case of the offense doing exactly it needed to get the job done.
"It was one of those nights where I was seeing the ball well," Sanders said. "Hitting is obviously contagious and everybody was hitting around me. I put good swings on it all night.
"The fourth inning was definitely a good inning for us," he adds. "We put up 11 runs. Everybody was taking pitches and looking for a pitch to hit to get on base and move people around. Everybody did a great job."
Trailing 6-1 Auburn put together one of its best innings of the season to break open the game at Mercer. Leading off the top of the fourth Sanders doubled in what would be the first of two hits in the inning. Shortstop Matt Hall then followed with a home run to center field to make it 6-3 Mercer. The lead wouldn't last long as Auburn was just getting started.
David Cunningham was the next in the hit parade and he singled to keep things going. Mercer then had a problem finding the plate as three consecutive walks pushed across the third run of the inning. A single by Brian Fletcher to right field scored Patterson and a double by Hunter Morris added two more before Mike Bianucci's sacrifice fly made it 8-6 Auburn. That brought Sanders to the plate for the second time and he didn't disappoint as he drove one to the right side and over the wall for his third home run in three days.
The blast put Auburn up by four with still more to come in the inning. Cunningham's second single of the inning brought Patterson to the plate and he became the second Tiger to homer twice in the inning as he drove one out in right field for his fifth of the year. That made it 12-6 Tigers, but it was just a sign of things to come on this night.
Reliever Michael Hurst settled in on the mound with the six-run lead and Auburn would add to its lead with a single run in the fifth before completely blowing it open in the seventh. With one out Fletcher doubled and later scored on a wild pitch. A walk to Bianucci brought Sanders back to the plate and once again he did the job with a double to left for his fifth hit of the night. Hall singled up the middle to score Sanders from second to make it 16-6 Tigers. Auburn added two runs in the eighth to make the final 18-6 and Evan Crawford came on to finish out the game on the mound.
It wasn't a great start for the Tigers on Tuesday as Mercer jumped on top early against starter Bradley Hendrix. Scoring a single run in the first, and two in the second on a home run by Casey Stuart, the Bears were ahead 3-0 before Auburn finally got on the scoreboard. With one out in the third Caldwell singled and later scored on a Morris single to right field. It didn't matter to Mercer though as they came back in the bottom of the third to score three more runs, these off Hurst thanks to a pair of walks, a hit batter and a passed ball. Down 6-1, Auburn went to work in the top of the fourth and put the game away with one big inning on the way to the victory.
Auburn will return to action Thursday night at 6 p.m. when the Tigers take on visiting LSU in a three-game series to wrap up SEC regular season play. Auburn must sweep LSU and hope for plenty of help around the league if it hopes to make the SEC Tournament in Hoover beginning next week.