With the win Auburn improves to 10-5 on the season while the Bulldogs fall to 10-5.
Already dealing with injuries to Trent Mummey and Justin Fradejas, Auburn had two more starters out of the lineup on Tuesday night as left fielder Brian Fletcher was held out because of a sore quad and second baseman Justin Hargett because of a sore shoulder. Without them in the lineup Auburn looked quite different as Justin Bryant got the call in left field with Wes Gilmer at second base.
Despite some mistakes along the way with a different cast of characters, Auburn did a solid job all around as the Tigers collected nine hits and committed just a pair of errors in the win. Coach John Pawlowski said it was a different night for his team, but the Tigers responded well to get the win.
"A couple of guys are banged up a little bit," Pawlowski said. "Fletcher pulled a muscle in his leg so we can get through the mid-week and rest him a little bit. The same thing with Hargett and his arm. It's just a little sore. Last minute changes, but both of those guys did a good job.
"Justin Bryant is a guy that can play anywhere on the field," Pawlowski said. "I told him to grab a glove and play in front of Bo Jackson and out he trotted to left field and did a great job. Wes Gilmer did a great job at second base. I was pleased with that.
"Tonight it was very important for us to pitch well and I thought Dexter Price did a great job," the coach added. "Ten ground ball outs in a game that the final score didn't indicate how close this game was."
Auburn dealt with injuries while Alabama A&M dealt with losing its coach after interim head coach Demetrius Mitchell resigned early Tuesday morning before the team left Huntsville for Auburn.
While the injury situation was a concern for Auburn, the story was the pitching of Price. In his second start of the season the sophomore was in control from start to finish and said he was proud of the way he pitched in the win.
"I felt like I struggled a little bit with my off speed the whole game," Price said. "I just had to go out there and work with what coach said. Luckily I had a great defense behind me and they were able to get the ground balls. I just had to keep that fastball down in the zone."
Auburn got on board in the first to take an early lead as Bryant walked and moved to second on a bunt single by Creede Simpson. A Hunter Morris groundout forced out Simpson at second for the first out of the inning to bring Caldwell to the plate. Lifting a fly ball to left field that appeared to be going off the wall, Caldwell was robbed of a double by a great leaping catch. Bryant did score on the play to make it 1-0 Auburn.
That's how things would remain until the fourth when once again Caldwell would do the damage. Leading off the inning, the junior got a pitch to drive and didn't miss it as he launched a drive off the batter's eye in center field for a solo home run. Auburn proceeded to loaded the bases with one out, but Ryan Jenkins was caught looking and a Bryant ground ball brought the inning to a close with Auburn up 2-0. Caldwell said after getting robbed in the first he was looking for something to drive the second time around.
"I told the guys they needed to be watching," Caldwell said. "That's the way this year has been going. That's baseball. Sometimes you hit line drives right at somebody. Hopefully they'll even out."
With Price cruising on the mound the Tigers added to their lead in the sixth. Shortstop Casey McElroy led things off with a single to right field, but was retired when Gilmer's ground ball to third got him at second base. Moving to second on a wild pitch, Gilmer scored moments later on a double to left-center by Dan Gamache. Following a pop up by Kevin Patterson it appeared Auburn would leave another runner stranded when Jenkins hit a lazy fly ball into center field. On a windy night that was anything but a routine play as Stephen Wimpeye missed the ball completely allowing Gamache to score. Now with a four-run lead things looked good for Price.
Continuing his command on the mound, Price lasted until a leadoff double in the eighth inning brought on reliever Zach Blatt. The Opelika native held the Bulldogs at bay and kept the shutout, setting the stage for a big inning for Auburn's offense to break the game open.
Leading off the inning, Gilmer unloaded with a long homer to left field that got things off to a roaring start. Following a flyout, pinch hitter Patrick Savage walked with Fradejas sent in to pinch run at first base. A walk to Jenkins and a stolen base by Fradejas put runners on the corners for Bryant and he responded with a triple to left-center to score both runners and make it 7-0 Auburn.
Back to back triples made it eight as Simpson lined a shot into left-center as well to wind up on third with still just one out. A passed ball and a pair of walks again put the Tigers in business and before things were done the Tigers would score four more runs without the aid of a hit to make it 11-0. For the inning Auburn scored seven runs on three hits to blow the game open.
In the ninth Ty Kelley came on and gave up a leadoff double. Following an error on Morris the run would eventually score to break up the shutout. Kelley closed out the inning to make the final 11-1 Auburn.
At the plate Simpson, Caldwell and Gamache had six of Auburn's nine hits for the game. Alabama A&M was held to just five hits with Lamar Bridges collecting a pair for the Bulldogs.
On Wednesday evening Auburn will send true freshman Slade Smith to the mound against Alabama A&M in his first career start. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.