Starter Colby Paxton and relievers Cory Dueitt and Steven Register allowed just one runner to reach third base all day and walked just three batters on the way to the victory. Coach Steve Renfroe said following the victory that this weekend was big for his team in terms of national respect.
"It's like I told the guys," Renfroe said. "When you see the sheets that come out and they put your record and then they have a slot that says, ‘Against Top-25 Teams,' well that slot now says we're 2-1. I told them this morning that one team is probably going to rise in the poll and one team is going to fall. There's not many Top 25 matchups going around the country on opening weekend. I think that's the best club they've ever brought in here."
Pitching was the story of the day for the Tigers as Paxton put on a clinic for much of the game. Despite not being in midseason form, he allowed just three hits in five and one/third innings and struck out three VCU hitters. The powerful junior said after the game that he thought his first outing went pretty well and he was just happy to come away with the victory and series win.
"I thought I threw fairly well," Paxton said. "I would have liked to have stayed in a little bit longer, but I have a lot of stuff to work on. Overall, I was pretty pleased with the first outing."
The player who Renfroe called the MVP of the weekend, Dueitt came back with his third performance in as many days and gave another solid outing. Allowing just one hit in two and one/third innings, the junior from Hoover could be a big part of this team if Levale Speigner remains in the starting rotation. One of the more experienced pitchers on the staff, he gives the Tigers someone to push the game to Register, who is the closer. That was one of the problem areas on last year's team and Paxton said that was a good sign from this weekend.
"Cory did very well all weekend in all three games," Paxton noted. "He's really turned himself around from last year. He's learning how to pitch and sink and change them up. I thought he did very, very well for us. That's going to be huge for us. We're going to need starters to go six and seven (innings). Somebody has to fill that gap so we can get into Stevo (Register). I think Cory and Levale can fill that role for us."
While the entire team was smiling at game's end, nobody on the field was happier following the win that closer Steven Register. After giving up four runs on five hits Saturday to blow a save opportunity, the sophomore said he was relieved to get another chance Sunday afternoon and was happy after pitching one and one/third scoreless innings to finish the game.
"I was glad that I had the chance to get back out there again after my outing yesterday," Register said. "I was just glad the team gave us a few runs, that way I had the chance to get back out there and try to overcome what happened yesterday.
"Yesterday everything I threw up there they were hitting it and just finding the holes, hitting it where I pitched it. I felt the same today--it just worked out a little better than yesterday."
Karl Ammonite rips a single through the right side.
After chipping out single runs in the fourth and seventh innings to take a 2-0 lead, the Tigers finally put together some hits in the bottom of the eighth. Struggling for the better part of three days with runners in scoring position, Auburn busted out for some timely hits late on Sunday. With one out, Scott Schade doubled down the right field line to give the Tigers some life. Sophomore Tug Hulett followed with a line drive single to left field that scored Schade from second to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
Chuck Jeroloman, hitless on the weekend, blooped a single to right field that pushed Hulett to third with still just one out. Clete Thomas was up next and he followed Hulett's lead with a liner through the left side of the infield to score Hulett and make it 4-0. A wild pitch plated Jeroloman from third, but that's all the Tigers would get as both Jovan Moran and Bobby Huddleston grounded out to Jose Pabon at third. Leading 5-0, Auburn turned to Register and the rest was history.
Schade singled home Huddleston for the first run Javon Moran doubled home Thomas to put the Tigers up 2-0 in the seventh inning.
Auburn returns to action Tuesday at 3 p.m. when they play the Samford Bulldogs at Plainsman Park. Continuing on the 15-game home stand, the Tigers face the Virginia Cavaliers next weekend in a three-game series. Game times are set for 3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday and 1:30 on Sunday.