"Old Style" Brandon Leads Auburn Past Cl

The 16th-ranked Auburn Tigers earned the series win over the 12th-ranked Clemson Tigers with a 7-3 victory on Sunday afternoon at Plainsman Park. Auburn improves to 8-3 on the season while Clemson falls to 1-2.

Auburn, Ala.--Not many things have gone right for Eric Brandon since his freshman season in 2001. Struggle after struggle on the mound has accompanied him since he joined the starting rotation that season and pitched well. Forced to move to the bullpen, he still had a solid campaign that season, but it was the beginning of a downhill slide for the talented right-hander.

Changing his mechanics and form to try to improve, he actually ended up getting away from the things he did the best. After starting this season 0-1 with a 10.45 ERA, Brandon said he went back and watched video of his pitching style from years gone by and decided to go back to what got him here. The result was his best pitching performance since last season's perfect game against Murray State. Throwing 75 pitches in five innings, he allowed just two runs on six hits and struck out four to earn his first victory of the season.

Eric Brandon was a key to Auburn's Sunday victory.

"I went back to the old style," Brandon said following the victory. "I felt a lot better out there. I felt like I was using my legs a lot more and that gave me more movement. I changed my arm angle a little bit, I went back to how I was throwing my freshman year. I had a lot more movement on the ball and my slider was a lot sharper.

"This whole week I've had a lot of help. Coach (Steve) Renfroe and a lot of other guys have been working with me a lot. We watched film Wednesday afternoon and then he asked me if I wanted to go back to the old way and I said yes. I threw a light bullpen on Thursday and he came in today and told me to go out there and get them like I did my freshman year. I felt great out there. I felt a lot better out there than I was the other way. I knew it was back."

Senior Levale Speigner and sophomore Steven Register put the finishing touches on Brandon's performance as they allowed just one run on six hits the final four innings to preserve the victory.

Offensively, freshman Josh Bell continues to be a bright spot for Auburn as he finished 3-4 with one RBI and three runs scored. Shortstop Chuck Jeroloman also had a big day, going 3-4 with three runs batted in. The sophomore said this win was huge for his team in terms of national respect.

"I feel awesome at the plate," Jeroloman said. "I'm seeing the ball real well and I'm staying back there trying to hit line drives places. I'm not trying to yank the ball down the left field line all the time trying to hit it off the wall.

"This was a huge win for us. It's always huge to get in that Top 25 column with a lot of wins and not many losses. We're just trying to fight back and have a good next weekend and a good game Tuesday and see where we end up."

Things didn't start off great for Brandon in the first inning as Clemson scored a run on two hits. Garrick Evans led off with a single to right field on a 2-2 pitch and promptly stole second to get into scoring position. After advancing to third on a passed ball, he scored on a groundout by Kyle Frank to Scott Schade at third and just like that Clemson was ahead 1-0.

Clemson starting pitcher Steven Jackson mowed down the Tigers in the first inning, but in the second Auburn would break the game open thanks to some clutch hitting by the bottom of the order. Karl Amonite and Bobby Huddleston both walked to get things started in the inning. Bell then hit a slow chopper deep into the hole at short that Russell Triplett couldn't handle. The play loaded the bases with nobody out. Playing smart baseball, Tug Hulett pulled an outside pitch to the right side to score Amonite and tie the score.

One out later, Jeroloman singled up the middle to score both Bell and Huddleston. Attempting to throw Huddleston out at the plate, Frank sailed the throw into the infield allowing Jeroloman to advance to second. Catching the ball at the plate, catcher Collin Mahoney threw the ball into center field to move Jeroloman to third. Clete Thomas drilled a 2-1 fastball deep to left-center field for a triple that scored Jeroloman. Leading 4-1 Auburn turned the ball over to Brandon to keep the lead.

Chuck Jeroloman singles against Clemson in Sunday's game.

"They've been huge," Renfroe said of the bottom of the order. "That's what I mean to these guys (telling them they can be better than they played this weekend) because if 3-4-5 get rolling then they could really be a scoring machine. There could be days when we take good pitchers and score. We're not there yet."

With the exception of one pitch that All-American candidate Michael Johnson blasted over the right field wall for a home run to lead off the fourth inning, Brandon did just that. He took the game into the sixth inning with Auburn still leading 4-2. That's when Speigner took over. He kept Clemson scoreless in the top half and the home-standing Tigers increased the lead when they came to bat.

Continuing to find his rhythm, Huddleston singled with one out in the inning to get the bullpen going for Clemson. It wouldn't be soon enough though as Bell doubled to the gap in left-center to score the senior catcher all the way from first base. Bell advanced to third on a throw to the plate and scored moments later on a single by Hulett up the middle. Leading 6-2 things looked good for the home team.

Auburn added an insurance run in the eighth inning and once again Bell and Jeroloman were in the middle of the action. Singling to start the inning off, Bell advanced to second on a hit-and-run groundout by Hulett and then moved to third on a groundout by Schade. Delivering with two outs once again, Jeroloman singled to center field to make it 7-2 Auburn. Clemson would add a run in the ninth off Register to make the final 7-3 and give Auburn its fourth win in six tries against Top 25 teams this season.

The Tigers will return to action Tuesday at 3 p.m. when they face the Troy State Trojans at Plainsman Park. Freshman Chris Dennis is expected to get the start for Auburn.

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