After scoring just eight runs in four losses to open the season on the West Coast, they torched Auburn pitchers for 22 hits on the way to a 17-3 victory over the Tigers at Plainsman Park on Tuesday. Eight Jaguar batters had at least two hits on the day as Auburn (6-2) suffered its worst loss since falling 20-5 at LSU in 2001 and the worst loss at home since losing 22-7 to Alabama in 1997.
Starting pitching once again was the Achilles heel for the Tigers as junior Eric Brandon couldn't get the job done for the second outing in a row. Allowing six runs on eight hits in just 2 2/3 innings, he couldn't find the answer that Coach Steve Renfroe was looking for as a starter and his performance left Auburn in a no-win situation. Facing 18th-ranked Clemson this coming weekend, the pitching staff was available if the game remained close. Facing an 11-2 deficit in the fifth inning, Renfroe decided to wave the white flag and pitch the reserves the rest of the game as the Jaguars walked away with the easy win.
"We couldn't get out of the first couple of innings with Eric and that set the stage," Renfroe said following the game. "We had guys ready to go if we could have gotten four innings out of him and been in the game, but when it got ugly that fast we weren't going to blow any of those guys. We didn't have much left and they pounded us. That's all there is to it. They beat us up real bad."
True freshman Josh Sullivan walks in his first at-bat. Sullivan is working with the baseball team as a pitcher and infielder. Sullivan is also a backup quarterback for the football team.
A solid first inning by Brandon didn't last into the second as South Alabama scored two quick runs to take the early lead. The Tigers came back to tie the game in what would prove to be the only excitement of the day for Auburn fans. With one out in the inning, reigning SEC Player of the Week Josh Bell singled to right field to extend his hitting streak to eight games. Tug Hulett followed with a single to left field that put runners on first and second.
Auburn's leading hitter Scott Schade kept it going with a single to right field that loaded the bases for shortstop Chuck Jeroloman. Working the count, he earned a walk to push across Bell with Auburn's first run. A sacrifice fly by Thomas one batter later scored Hulett and the game was tied at two heading to the third inning. That would be as close as Auburn would come the rest of the way.
Lee Carter saw action in relief.
Hoping to stay close and get to Cory Dueitt in the bullpen, Renfroe sent Brandon back out for the third inning. South Alabama made sure he didn't stay very long. After a walk to Cole Craig to start the inning, Jansen Rayborn singled to center field to get the rally started. Another walk, this one to Ryan Mulhern, put Brandon in a tough situation with still no outs in the inning. Josh Touchtone was up next and he flew out to Sean Gamble in left field to score Craig from third. Trying to gun down the runner at the plate, Gamble's throw was off target allowing Rayborn and Mulhern to move into scoring position.
A fielder's choice scored Rayborn before a Tim Land double scored Mulhern. Another single and a double by Brett Parker would finish Brandon's day, but not before the Jaguars has scored four more runs to take a 6-2 lead.
Lee Carter came on for Brandon and did a solid job in his first inning of work, holding South Alabama scoreless in the fourth inning. He wouldn't be as fortunate in the fifth. Two straight hits to open the inning put the Jaguars in business and a sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position with just one out.
Following an intentional walk to Craig, new pitcher Andrew Skinner gave up a single to Rayborn to score the first of five South Alabama runs in the inning to make the score 11-2.
Two more in the sixth and four runs in the seventh made it 17-2 Jaguars going to the bottom of the seventh. A Doug Vines RBI single to score Thomas from third after his first triple of the season put an end to the Auburn scoring on the day. Walk-on pitcher Jim Miksis held South Alabama scoreless the last three innings to be the lone bright star on what was an otherwise gloomy day at Plainsman Park.
The Tigers return to action this weekend when Clemson comes to town for a three-game series. Game times are 3 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. The Tigers swept Auburn in a three-game set last season at Clemson.