In six innings of work the left-hander allowed just one run on two hits while striking out four as Auburn dropped Clemson 8-1 in the opener after being rained out Friday. Junior Cory Dueitt closed the action with three scorless innings to pick up his first save of the season. The loss went to Jeff Hahn after he allowed four runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.
While the pitching was the top story, Auburn's offense also had a solid opener with 15 hits against the always strong Clemson staff. Sean Gamble and Scott Schade led the way with three hits each and five combined runs batted in. First baseman Karl Amonite and catcher Josh Bell had two hits apiece to help move Auburn to 7-2 overall while Clemson falls to 0-1.
Arnold Hughey takes a break between innings in Saturday's game.
Both pitchers kept things scoreless in the first two innings, but after a perfect top of the third inning by Hughey the Tigers would strike for two runs in the bottom half. Chuck Jeroloman got things started with a one out single to left and when Clete Thomas singled up the middle the Tigers were in business. Trying to force Hahn to make a tough play, Gamble put down a bunt and the pitcher couldn't make a play to load the bases for Javon Moran. Unlike all season, the junior didn't come through as he grounded into a fielder's choice to force out Jeroloman at the plate.
Just when it looked like Auburn was going to blow a great opportunity, lady luck smiled on the Tigers. With Karl Amonite at the plate, Hahn bounced a breaking ball off the plate and it bounced high onto the screen allowing Thomas to score easily from third with the first run of the game. Amonite then did his part by dribbling one deep into the hole behind second base that scored Gamble to make it 2-0 Auburn. Nobody knew it at the time but that would be all the Tigers would need thanks to Hughey.
The only Clemson threat of the game came in the top of the fourth inning. Third baseman Brad McCann singled to left field to get things going. All-American candidate Michael Johnson grounded into a fielder's choice to force out McCann at second base. After advancing to second on a wild pitch, Johnson moved to third on a groundout to Jeroloman at short and would score one batter later on a single by catcher Collin Mahoney. With Zane Green on second ahead of Mahoney after walking, Hughey coaxed Russell Triplett into flying out to Moran in center field for the final out of the inning.
It would be sheer domination from Hughey and Dueitt the rest of the way as they allowed just one base runner the final five innings and that was on a strikeout when the ball got by Bell and the runner reached first.
With the lead just one, Auburn got back on track in the sixth and put the game away. With one out, Bell singled to right center and stole second to move into scoring position. Tug Hulett was next in line and he came through with a single through the right side to put runners on first and third. Reliever Jeff Hourigan came in for Hahn and was promptly treated roughly by Schade as he drilled a 2-1 fastball to the wall in left-center for a triple to drive in two runs and make it 4-1 Auburn.
Scott Schade congratulated after his triple in the sixth inning.
Jeroloman was up next and he walked on just four pitches to signal another change for the Tigers on the mound. It didn't work out as Thomas was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Gamble, who has been strong in those situations this year. He again came up big as he dribbled a slow roller down the third base line that pitcher Robert Rohbaugh fielded and threw to the plate. Just beating the throw, Schade forced Mahoney to drop the ball when it arrived and Auburn had a 5-1 lead. Following another fielder's choice by Moran, Amonite singled to right to score both Thomas and Gamble and give Auburn a six-run lead heading to the seventh.
That would be all for Hughey as Dueitt came in and took over in strong fashion. Allowing just the one base runner in three innings while striking out four on just 32 pitches, he shut down the Tigers to preserve the win. Auburn got one insurance run in the eighth inning when Gamble was hit by a pitch to start the inning off. After stealing second, he scored on a Moran single to push the score to 8-1. That's how it would end as Auburn headed into the second game with momentum and confidence.
Junior Colby Paxton will get the start for the Tigers in game two against Tyler Lumsden for Clemson.