Nelson Fans 12 As Auburn Pounds Owls

Auburn starting pitcher Cole Nelson struck out 12 and walked just one in six innings as the Tigers bombed Florida Atlantic 17-4 on Sunday.

Auburn, Ala.--After a less than stellar effort on the mound Saturday, Auburn was looking for something good from junior college transfer Cole Nelson and got more than good as he allowed just two hits and one run in six innings and struck out 12 in a 17-4 Auburn win Sunday over Florida Atlantic.

Left fielder Brian Fletcher added two hits, including a home run, and four RBI to raise hit season total to 17 in just six games as Auburn (4-2) closed out a successful Auburn Classic with the win.

Offensively, Auburn pounded out 15 hits, but the story was pitching as Nelson dominated the Owls from start to finish to pick up his second win of the young season. Winning last weekend against SEMO in his first career start, Nelson said he felt much better this time around and it showed in his performance.

"That gave me a lot of confidence," Nelson said. "Just kind of getting out there and seeing what this level is like, it was my first Division I performance. It gave me a lot of confidence going into today. I felt like I had to do what I did last week and with the exception of probably more sliders I did the same thing.

"The slider was working really well," he added. "It's pretty much my go-to pitch on 0-2 and 1-2 today. It came through for me. I was throwing them exactly where I wanted to and people were swinging over the top."

Brian Fletcher is off to a torrid start for the Tigers.

Offensively, Fletcher had big numbers, but was far from the only standout for the Tigers. Creede Simpson had three hits, drove in two, and scored four runs while Justin Hargett, Dan Gamache and Kevin Patterson all added a pair of hits for Auburn. Coach John Pawlowski said Sunday was a total team effort in the win.

"We established things early in the game," Pawlowski said. "We came out and scored seven runs in the first two innings. With the performance that Cole had today, he was dominant. He had 16 of 24 first-pitch strikes. He was around the zone all day long. When you can score runs and pitch like that it makes things a little easier."

The first inning was a sign of things to come for the Tigers on this Sunday as Nelson finished off a scoreless first inning with a strikeout and Auburn's offense went right to work. Leading off, Hargett doubled off the top of the wall in left field and moved to third on a bunt single by Simpson. Following a Hunter Morris strikeout, Fletcher smoked a single to left field to score both runners after a Simpson steal of second put him in scoring position. A Gamache single followed by an error allowed Fletcher to score and just like that it was 3-0 Auburn.

After FAU got two singles off Nelson to start the second, the junior responded by retiring the side including two strikeouts. Unfortunately an Auburn error allowed a run to score as with runners on first and third and two outs the Owls started the runner from first.

Catcher Caleb Bowen's throw to second was cut off by shortstop Justin Bryant, but his throw back to the plate was wide allowing the runner to score from third.

Auburn continued the offensive onslaught in the second as Patterson led off the inning with a blast over the right field wall for his first homer of the season.

Back to back errors by the Owls put runners on first and third for the Tigers with Simpson coming up and he came through again. This time his single scored Bowen from third to make it 5-1 Tigers. One out later Fletcher did his thing again as his blast over the left field wall was his fourth homer of the season. That made it 7-1 Auburn with Nelson cruising on the mound.

Cruising doesn't begin to describe what Nelson was doing at the moment. Striking out the final batter of the third inning, he struck out the side in both the fourth and fifth innings for seven-straight. It was the first time an Auburn pitcher had struck out the side since Taylor Thompson did it against South Alabama in 2008 and gave the Tigers the confidence to break the game open at the plate.

In the bottom of the fourth Hargett and Simpson had back to back doubles to start the inning and following an intentional walk to Fletcher, Gamache ripped a double over the center fielder's head to score both runners and make it 10-1. Auburn added two more in the fifth before the Owls finally got to Nelson with three hits in the sixth to make it 12-2, but a fly ball to Simpson put an end to the threat with Auburn holding a 10-run lead.

Auburn added two more in the sixth on Bowen's first career home run and tacked on three in the eighth before the Owls scored two off reliever Garrett Bush in the ninth inning to make the final 17-4.

The Tigers return to the field on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. when they take on Davidson for the first of two mid-week games against the Wildcats. Wednesday's game will begin at 3 p.m. with Auburn basketball taking on Mississippi State at 7 p.m. in the final game at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Tiger Ticket Extra: Auburn's likely mid-week starters will be sophomore Dexter Price on Tuesday and fellow sophomore Corey Luckie on Wednesday. Pawlowski said they're looking at making some changes in the weekend rotation and that could mean a bump up for Nelson following Sunday's outing.

On the injury front there's a chance that shortstop Casey McElroy could return this week, but with Bryant playing well at shortstop he could stay in the lineup and possibly in right field. That could bump Tony Caldwell back behind the plate if it happens.

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