Nelson Stuffs SEMO As Tigers Earn Series Win

Auburn's Cole Nelson pitched six and one/thirds innings of scoreless baseball in his first start as the Tigers defeated SEMO 6-1 on Sunday.

Auburn, Ala.--Coach John Pawlowski went the junior college route for pitching in last year's signing class and on Sunday that paid off in a big way as 6-7 left-hander Cole Nelson allowed three hits and no runs in six and one/third innings to get the win and 6-7 righty Stephen Kohlscheen earned the save with one and one/thirds innings of scoreless relief as Auburn (2-1) defeated Southeast Missouri State 6-1 to earn the series win.

"Cole did a great job," Pawlowski said. "I think he set the tone really early. He got some ground balls. I thought he pitched well today. I thought he went out there and threw strikes. He threw three pitches for strikes and handled himself very well in his first outing."

A starter for much of his career, Nelson came to Auburn after serving as a closer last season at Des Moines (Iowa) Area Community College. It didn't take him long to find his groove as a starter though as he gave up a leadoff single on the first pitch of the game and only two more hits for the duration as he picked up his first win in an Auburn uniform.

"I felt real good out there," Nelson said. "It helped to have Jenks (Ryan Jenkins) back there, a proven leader, behind the plate. My fastball felt really good and I established the slider in the second and third inning. From there on I felt like I kept people off balance.

"The leadoff hitter got that hit right away and made me settle in a little quicker than I wanted to," he added. "I realized I needed to make some better pitches right off the bat. I felt like I really hit my groove in the second or third inning."

At the plate Auburn scored six runs despite getting just eight hits and none from the top three guys in the batting order. Third baseman Dan Gamache had two hits and walked twice while shortstop Justin Bryant also added two hits, two runs scored, and a walk.

Justin Bryant scores a run for the Tigers.

After a scoreless first inning Auburn got things going offensively in the second thanks to plenty of help from SEMO starter Jordan Underwood. With one out in the inning he walked right fielder Tony Caldwell who promptly stole second base. Then a walk to shortstop Bryant put a runner in scoring position for the Tigers. Following a fly ball to right field by Jenkins that moved Caldwell to third, designated hitter Wes Gilmer continued his hot hitting with a single to center field to put Auburn on the board.

Nelson ran into some trouble in the third inning as a one-out single by Kenton Parmley and a stolen base gave the Red Hawks some life. A walk to leadoff man Taylor Heon followed, but SEMO then made a mistake as an attempted double-steal resulted in Parmley getting thrown out at thid base by Jenkins. Nelson then got a ground ball to end the threat with the Tigers still up 1-0.

Auburn added to its lead in the third as a leadoff walk to Crede Simpson and Hunter Morris getting hit by a pitch put the Tigers in great shape. It looked like the chance would go by the wayside after Brian Fletcher hit into a 4-6-3 double play, but Gamache came through with a great piece of two-strike hitting as he pushed a single to left field to score Simpson for a 2-0 Auburn lead.

The Tigers missed a golden opportunity to blow the game open in the fourth as Bryant led off with a single and advanced to second on a Jenkins ground ball that looked like it would be a double play. Going to the bag at second, Parmley dropped the ball and everyone was safe. A walk to Gilmer followed to load the bases with nobody out and the top of the Auburn order due up, but the Tigers managed just one run on a Simpson walk as SEMO reliever Cory Harness did his job to keep it a three-run game.

Continuing to get the most out very little firepower at the plate, Auburn added two more runs in the fifth thanks once again to the bottom of the order. Leading things off, Gamache singled and stole second base to move into scoring position. Following a Caldwell strikeout, Bryant delivered with a double to left field that scored Gamache. Jenkins followed with a single to left to score Bryant and just like that Auburn had a 5-0 advantage heading to the sixth.

Auburn made the lead six in the bottom of the inning on a solo home run from Fletcher. After that it was left up to the bullpen as Nelson gave way to Michael Hurst in the seventh. He and Cory Luckie allowed three hits and issued two walks in one and one/third innings and the only run of the game in the seventh before Kohlscheen came on to finish things off by getting out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth and pitching a scoreless ninth.

On the injury front the Tigers could be looking at another one as Hargett was hit on the end of his finger during warm-ups and despite playing through it for the game he'll be looked at on Monday according to Pawlowski.

The good news is that shortstop Casey McElroy could be back by this weekend after fracturing the middle finger on his throwing hand last week. Outfielder Justin Fradejas will likely miss significant time this season after suffering a hand injury in the opener. Pawlowski said he'll see a hand specialist in Birmingham on Monday.

The Tigers will return to action on Friday as they host the Auburn Classic at Plainsman Park. This weekend's games are Missouri vs. Florida Atlantic on Friday at 2 p.m. with Auburn vs. Boston College to follow at 6. On Saturday Boston College will play Florida Atlantic at 11 a.m. with Auburn facing Missouri at 3 p.m.

Also that day Auburn will honor its first inductees into the Auburn Wall of Fame. They are Bo Jackson, Gregg Olson, Frank Thomas and Tim Hudson. Sunday's action will have Missouri vs. Boston College at 11 a.m. with Auburn against Florida Atlantic to follow at 3 p.m.

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