After a struggle in a loss Friday night to the Commodores when the Tigers gave up 12 runs in the final four innings, Auburn responded with wins on Saturday and Sunday to take the series. Coach John Pawlowski said for his team it was a big way to finish off a huge weekend.
"I thought Taylor Thompson did a great job," Pawlowski said. "We tried to make a decision who to go with. Taylor did a good job in his first start against Charleston Southern. He did a great job today. He gave us a chance and got deeper into the ballgame. We had a lot of momentum. I thought that was very important. You look back at every run that was scored and it comes down to it, in college baseball you're never out of a ballgame."
In his second start of the season, Thompson wasn't dominating, but he was solid in picking up his second win. Giving up four earned runs in five innings on six hits, Thompson left the game with his team in the lead and the Tigers made it stand up. Thompson said for him it was another confidence building outing as he tries to get back from off season elbow surgery.
"It felt good," Thompson said. "It's always a confidence boost to go out there and get a win. I pitched five good innings. I had great offensive support and was able to pitch to both sides of the plate. I had both my slider and my fastball. It felt great."
Also feeling good is sophomore first baseman Hunter Morris. Struggling early in the season because of a sore back, he came into the game hitting just .233, but was 3-5 on Sunday including a two-run homer. Also joining the homer barrage were Trent Mummey, Brian Fletcher, Kevin Patterson and Justin Hargett as the Tigers had five on the day.
Kevin Patterson had one of Auburn's five homers on the day.
That puts Auburn at 58 home runs for the season, tying last season's total from the entire year. The number is good enough to be tied for seventh all-time in Auburn history. Pawlowski said for him he was encouraged not only by the power on Sunday, but by the disciplined hitting his team showed.
"We got ourselves in some pretty good hitting counts and Hunter did that too," Pawlowski said. "He had one situation, when he hit his home run he had a 2-0 count. He was just looking for a fastball, something to drive. Fletch did that too. I thought we put ourselves in some winning hitting counts. What that means is we were locked into one pitch. The guys did a good job of that today."
Auburn jumped on top of the Commodores early in Sunday's game much to the delight of Thompson. In the first Morris had a two-out double and scored on a Tony Caldwell single to put Auburn up 1-0.
In the second it was time for the long ball to pay dividends for the Tigers. With a runner on first, Mummey got a pitch up and out over the plate and drove it just under the scoreboard for a two-run homer. It was Mummey's 11th home run of the season and put Auburn up by the score of 3-0 heading to the third.
Thompson cruised through that inning, but ran into some trouble in the fourth. With one out Aaron Westlake singled and scored moments later on a two-run homer by Joe Loftus. It was his fourth homer of the season and cut Auburn's lead down to one.
The Tigers would answer back in the bottom of the fourth as Patterson hit a solo shot with one out to push the lead back to two. A walk to Hargett set the stage for the second run of the inning as he moved to second on a Mummey groundout and scored on a Joseph Sanders single off the second baseman.
They would extend the lead in the fifth again with the long ball as Fletcher sent one over the monster in left field with a runner aboard for his eighth homer of the season. The blast put Auburn up 7-2 and it looked like the Tigers would cruise, but Vanderbilt had a different idea.
A single by Steven Liddle followed by a walk to Curt Casali put an end to Thompson's day as reliever Chris O'Neil came on. On his second pitch Westlake doubled to score Liddle and put an early end to O'Neil's day. Hurst came on and got a ground ball that scored a run and a strikeout, but a single by Jason Esposito cut Auburn's lead to 7-5.
Just like they had done all day, Auburn's bats responded at the plate. Leading off the inning, Hargett hit a solo blast over the wall in right field for his third home run of the season. One out later Sanders doubled just inside the bag at third base to set Morris up and the big sophomore delivered with a blast over the wall in center field. His sixth of the season but Auburn up 10-5, but the fireworks were far from done.
Following a scoreless seventh, Hurst went back out for the eighth and gave up a leadoff double. A Morris error on a tough pop up behind the first base bag then put runners on first and third with nobody out. Hubbard came on and the drama ensued.
After a strikeout, Esposito doubled to push across Westlake for the first run of the inning. That left runners on second and third with one out. For some reason Vanderbilt then attempted a squeeze play, but a hard slider from Hubbard forced a miss on the bunt attempt. Caldwell jumped up and ran to the bag at third where both Vanderbilt runners had congregated. Caldwell tagged the first runner on the third base bag and umpire Keith Sanders called him out. Caldwell then tagged Esposito as he headed back towards second for what appeared to be a double play. The umpires changed the call though and left the runner on third and called just Esposito out.
That drew the ire of Pawlowski as he came out of the Auburn dugout and immediately lit into Sanders. Arguing for five minutes, Pawlowski was eventually ejected from the game. Hubbard came back to strike out Drew Fann to end the inning with Auburn up 10-6 going to the bottom of the eighth.
With one out Mummey walked, stole second, and then stole third. He later scored on a Caldwell single to left field to put Auburn back up by five. What appeared to be piling on turned out to be needed for the Tigers as Vanderbilt unloaded on Hubbard in the ninth. Getting the first two batters he faced, Hubbard gave up a two-out double to Liddle. Another double and a single brought Giobbi to the plate and he kept the barrage up with a long home run to left center. Just like that Vanderbilt was down just one, but Hubbard got Loftus to ground out to McElroy at short to end the inning and give the Tigers the win.
Auburn will return to action Tuesday night when the Tigers travel to Mobile to face South Alabama for a 6 p.m. start at Stanky Field.