Despite the big inning and the late rally to win, the story of the game was the pitching of Cory Luckie. In his first start after sitting out all of last season, the Prattville sophomore allowed just a run on three hits and struck out nine in four and one/third innings of work. Coach John Pawlowski said it was good to see Luckie come through and the performance was big to stake his team to the lead.
"There is so much parity in college baseball it doesn't matter who you play," Pawlowski said. "Davidson threw everything at us. They are well-coached and know how to play. We were fortunate to come away with two wins. I think you learn a lot more about your club when you are faced with some adversity. We were up 6-1 in both games and they battled back. In the second game Austin Hubbard comes in for the eighth and does a great job and in the ninth inning when we needed him to make some big pitches he stood out there and made some quality pitches.
"I was really encouraged in game two with Cory Luckie," he added. "He's been through so much. He sat out all of last year and had three pitches going for him today. It was just a great outing from him today."
Trailing 1-0, Auburn finally got the offense going in the bottom of the fourth inning. With Luckie pitching well, the Tigers went to work as Brian Fletcher led off with a single to left field to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games. Casey McElroy then put down a sacrifice bunt, but the throw was wild at first allowing him to reach and give the Tigers two runners on with nobody out.
With ducks on the pond Tony Caldwell came through with a double to right-center to score Fletcher and tie the game. Following a groundout, McElroy scored from third on a wild pitch before back to back walks to Wes Gilmer and Ryan Jenkins loaded the bases with still just one out. Second baseman Justin Hargett's single made the score 3-1. Following a fly ball from Crede Simpson and a Hunter Morris single, Hargett stole home on a double steal to make it 6-1 Auburn.
In his first extended action since 2008 because of Tommy John surgery, Luckie made it through only two batters in the fifth inning before giving way to Stephen Kohlscheen. Still it was a hugely successful day for the left-hander from Prattville.
"It felt really good," Luckie said. "There are a lot of mental sides to things most people don't know about. It just feels really good to know you can be competitive again and you can be successful against good teams. I feel really good. I'm just anxious to get back out there. I'm glad we pulled out the win late in the game."
Kohlscheen on the other hand had another tough day on the mound. One swing of the bat cut Auburn's lead in the sixth as Andrew Barna singled to lead things off in front of Michael Zeblo. Getting a pitch to drive, Zeblo deposited it over the right field wall for a two-run shot. The blast cut the lead down to 6-3, but Davidson wasn't done.
In the seventh Michael Goldberg walked and one out later moved to second on a single by Drew Gadaire. Barna again proved to be a thorn in Auburn's side as his double pushed across both runners to make it 6-5 Tigers heading to the eighth. With the offense in neutral, Davidson's offense continue to do damage, this time against reliever Bradley Hendrix. Coming on in the eighth, Hendrix got two quick outs before three consecutive hits meant another Wildcat run to tie the game at six. Hubbard came on to close out the inning, but the damage was done with a 6-6 score heading to the bottom of the eighth.
For Ryan Jenkins it has been a rough start to the season. Hitting just .105, the senior came up with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning and the game tied. Getting a pitch away, Jenkins ripped it into center field for a single. Speedy Justin Fradejas can't bat because of a hand injury, but he can still run. He proved that as he came on to pinch-run for Jenkins and quickly moved to third on a pair of wild pitches. It proved to be big as a Hargett ground ball to first base was enough to score him and give Auburn a 7-6 lead heading to the ninth.
Things weren't easy though as Davidson loaded the bases with just one out, but Hubbard got tough when the time came as he got a ground ball to Bryant at third base who threw home for the second out of the inning. Hubbard then closed things out in style with a strikeout to earn the victory.
For the Tigers Morris and Caldwell each had two hits while Hargett drove in three. Barna led Davidson with three hits and the Wildcats used seven different pitchers in the loss.
Auburn returns to action this weekend as the Tigers take on Miami (OH) in a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times for the weekend are 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Tiger Ticket Extra: Auburn will likely have a different rotation this weekend, but at this time things remain very much up in the air for Pawlowski and pitching coach Scott Foxhall. Cole Nelson has been the star on the mound the first two weekends, but he was sent home earlier this weekend because of the illness of his father. Pawlowski said everyone's thoughts and prayers are with Cole and his family and he's not sure when the tall left-hander will return. Because of that Jon Luke Jacobs will again get the call on Friday night with TBA for both Saturday and Sunday.