Despite not allowing a walk and not committing an error in the field, the story of the game was offense for the Tigers as they pounded out 22 hits against six Miami pitchers to come away with the victory. Tony Caldwell added three hits with both Justin Hargett and Wes Gilmer adding two hits each, but on this night Simpson and Fletcher were the catalysts said coach John Pawlowski.
"Both of those guys were outstanding today," Pawlowski said. "They had some quality at-bats. Tony Caldwell had three hits and a base hit bunt. When you score 14 runs and have 22 hits you've done things the right way. I'm certainly pleased with the offense. I don't like to be down like that, but it's good to know that we have the capability to come back in a situation like that."
On the mound starter Jon Luke Jacobs struggled once again after a solid start, allowing five runs on seven hits in five innings. Reliever Bradley Hendrix had an even tougher night with three runs on four hits in just an inning. The night however did belong to senior Michael Hurst on the mound for the Tigers. In three innings he allowed just one run on three hits and struck out four. Pawlowski said when they needed him most Hurst stepped up.
"Michael did a great job," Pawlowski said. "One of the things we talked about was no rebound runs. We scored eight runs in the bottom of the seventh and he went out there and gave us a one-two-three inning that kept the momentum with us. It was a great job by Michael and certainly we needed that."
Trailing 9-5 in the seventh, Auburn needed offense in a hurry and it came at just the right time on a chilly night at Plainsman Park. Already with two hits for the game, Fletcher started things right with a solo shot to right field for his fifth homer of the season. It wouldn't be the last time Fletcher's name would be called in this inning. Shortstop Casey McElroy followed with a double to left and just like that the Tigers were off and running.
With ace reliever Jordan Jankowski in for the RedHawks Tony Caldwell struck out for the first out of the inning, but he wouldn't get another one as Justin Bryant was hit by a pitch and Wes Gilmer singled to load the bases with still just one out for pinch hitter Dan Gamache. Getting something to pull, the sophomore ripped a single through the right side to score two and make it a one-run game 9-8. With Justin Hargett at the plate a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position and Auburn's leadoff hitter was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Crede Simpson.
Already with three hits, Simpson delivered number four as he sliced a single just inside the first base bag that scored two and put Auburn back in front. Simpson said he wanted to just continue the inning and keep the momentum going with his at-bat.
"I was seeing off-speed pitches all day," Simpson said. "I was just trying to look for a curveball or something to hit. He threw it and I didn't put the best swing on it, but I got the hit and I'll take it."
Simpson gets advice from first base coach Ty Megahee following his two-run single in the seventh.
Following a Hunter Morris pop up, Fletcher again came to the plate and did damage as his double down the left field line scored two more to make it 12-9 Tigers. Caldwell finished the inning off in style as he came through with a double of his own to score Fletcher for a four-run Auburn advantage. The junior left fielder said it was just one of those innings when everything falls into place and he was glad to be a part of it twice.
"It was one of those things where we wanted to build some momentum and get some guys on base and drive some runs in," Fletcher said. "I tried to get it started, just get on base and do something. Fortunately it kept carrying. Guys then stepped up and got some big knocks and I was able to contribute another time and get another base hit."
Auburn struck first in the bottom of the second inning as Fletcher singled to left to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. Following a McElroy groundout that moved him to second, Fletcher scored on Caldwell's single to left field. The Tigers added another single run in the third as three consecutive two-out singles by Simpson, Hunter Morris and Fletcher made it 2-0. The RBI single from Fletcher was his 20th run batted in this season.
Hitting over .400 coming into the weekend series, Adam Eaton came through with a solo shot to break up a shutout for Jacobs in the fourth. It was an unfortunate sign of things to come for Auburn's pitching staff on this night, but not before the Tigers put two more runs on the board in the bottom of the inning.
Leading off, Caldwell reached on a bunt single to put Auburn in business. Following a sacrifice bunt and a fly ball, Jenkins singled to left field to score Caldwell and make it 3-1 Tigers. A single from Hargett moved Jenkins into scoring position and Simpson brought him home with a double to left field. A Morris groundout brought the inning to a close with Auburn ahead 4-1.
From that point forward the RedHawks looked like they would put this one away as Jacobs and the rest of the Auburn staff was roughed up for the next two innings. A leadoff double by Zak Hatfield started a furious fifth for Miami as Brad Gschwind singled to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Following a flyout to right field that resulted in a run, Jacobs gave up a single to center from number nine hitter Ryan Brenner to bring Eaton back to the plate.
It looked like Jacobs might survive the inning as he came back from a 3-0 count to get the red hot Eaton on a pop up, but back-to-back singles from Jon Edgington and Kyle Weldon put the RedHawks on top for the first time 5-4.
The visitors would extend the lead in the sixth off reliever Bradley Hendrix and Hatfield would again be the ignition as his one-out single was following by a Gschwind single. A fly ball to center field moved Hatfield to third with two outs. An infield single by Brenner scored one with the dangerous Eaton due up for Miami. Deciding to pitch to him, Auburn lost out as Eaton hit a rope off the wall in right field to score both runners and make it 8-4 Miami (OH).
Auburn made some noise in the bottom of the inning with a one-out RBI single from Hargett to score Bryant from third after his single and an error that allowed Gilmer to reach base. Things could have been even better as Simpson followed with a single to left field, but Hatfield would come up gunning and throw Gilmer out easily at the plate. A Morris pop up left the score 8-6 RedHawks.
With Hurst on in the seventh Miami added a single run to push the lead back to four, but Auburn would respond with a huge seventh to gain firm control of the Friday night contest and win going away.
Auburn and Miami (OH) play the second game of the series Saturday at 3 p.m. with junior Grant Dayton (0-1, 7.00 ERA) getting the start for the Tigers. Also junior pitcher Cole Nelson is back from Minnesota after going home to be with his ailing father. He is scheduled to start on Sunday for the Tigers.