It was Auburn's ninth consecutive victory and improves the Tigers to 11-4 on the season. The Hilltoppers fall to 9-4 with the loss.
It was a tale of two games for Auburn as the Tigers pounded out 11 runs on 10 hits in the first two innings to jump all over the visitors. That included a three home run first inning. Auburn was shut down the rest of the way though on a night when coach John Pawlowski said he was far from pleased with his team's performance.
"I talked to the guys before the game that our approach today has to be where mentally we're ready to play," Pawlowski said. "After last night (dramatic win over Alabama) I challenged the guys today that the guys had to come out and be ready to play. I thought we were early. We put up 11 runs in the first two innings and then we just kind of went flat from there on out offensively.
"I said, ‘Guys when you get into SEC play and we don't make some quality pitches it's going to be an interesting ball game.' I got on them a little bit and challenged them a little bit. We've got a lot to learn as we go through the course of the season. A win is a win and we'll certainly take it."
On the mound true freshman Dexter Price earned his third victory of the season as he allowed four earned runs on seven hits in five and one/thirds innings. Reliever Ty Kelley gave up two runs on four hits in two and two/thirds while Rus Harper closed things out by allowing one run on two hits in one inning of work.
"I thought some guys stepped up," Pawlowski said. "I thought Dexter Price and Ty gave us something to work with too. It's great to see those guys go out there and be successful."
At the plate sophomore second baseman Justin Hargett led the way with three hits and three RBI while Trent Mummey, Joseph Sanders and Kevin Patterson all had two hits each. Hargett said it was a frustrating game for the Tigers to come out swinging only to struggle to put the visitors away.
"We jumped out early and scored a bunch of runs," Hargett said. "Luckily we scored 11 runs because like coach was talking about, we kind of flatlined after that. Fortunately we got enough runs to get us through the game."
Auburn exploded for a huge first inning to jump on top of the Hilltoppers. Leading off, Mummey took WKU starter Kes Carter deep to right field for a solo home run. It was his eighth of the season and just the beginning for Auburn.
Following a single by Sanders and a ground ball out by Ben Jones, first baseman Hunter Morris doubled to put the Tigers up 2-0. Brian Fletcher then jumped on an outside fastball and drove it to right for the second home run of the inning. It was his fifth of the year and gave Auburn a 4-0 advantage.
Continuing the barrage at the plate, Patterson followed with a solo shot to right field, his third of the season. A double by Casey McElroy and a single by Hargett finished up the scoring in the first as Auburn led 6-0 heading to the second.
A three-up and three-down inning by Price got Auburn right back at the plate and the pounding continued as Sanders led off with a double to left. Jones was hit by a pitch and following a Morris pop up, Fletcher walked to load the bases for Patterson.
Entering the game hitting just .250, Patterson collected his second hit of the night with a single to right that scored two. Following Caldwell being hit by a pitch, a sacrifice fly by McElroy and a two-run double by Hargett gave Auburn a commanding 11-0 lead after two innings of play.
From that point forward the only offense came from the visitors. Auburn collected 10 hits the first two innings and proceeded to go hitless until the seventh when Hargett and Mummey collected back to back singles, the last two hits of the game for the Tigers.
On a night when the totals looked impressive, Pawlowski said for the most part it wasn't a good night at the plate for his club, but it‘s a good teaching tool to use down the road about staying focused on the task at hand instead of thinking ahead.
"It's hard when you lose and you try to teach too," Pawlowski said. "When you win you just have a lot of little things you can't overlook. The intangible things, the energy in the dugout, has got to remain. We've got a big challenge ahead of us thing weekend and I didn't want the guys to think anything about that. I wanted them to focus on this game. Western Kentucky is a very solid club and if you're not ready to play you're going to get beat."
Western Kentucky finally got on the board in the fourth as Chad Cregar drove a one-out pitch from Price over the wall in right for a two-run shot. It was his seventh of the season and cut the Auburn lead to 11-2.
Matt Rice followed with a solo shot to cut the lead down to eight. Two innings later Cregar was at it again as his laser just cleared the K Corner in right field for number eight. Now leading 11-4, Auburn turned to Kelley to take it home.
The sophomore did just that as he made it to the ninth before back to back singles by the Hilltoppers chased him for left Rus Harper. Before the inning was done Western Kentucky added three runs, but the damage was done as Auburn won going away 11-7.
Auburn returns to action this weekend when the Tigers travel to Knoxville to face the Tennessee Volunteers in a three-game series to open SEC play. Game times for the weekend are 6 p.m. CDT on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday.