Senior Levale Speigner, coming on in relief in the fourth inning, didn't allow a hit in 3 2/3 innings on the way to picking up his third win of the season. Starter Mal Winters got the loss for Troy State, giving up four hits and two runs in five innings of work.
Huddleston, who finished the day 3-3 with four runs batted in, led the Auburn attack at the plate. The only other player to get more than one hit against the Trojans was center fielder Javon Moran, who had two hits in four at-bats. Following a draining series against Clemson last weekend, Auburn needed some energy to come away with a victory Tuesday and Coach Steve Renfroe said following the game that Huddleston provided just what they were looking for.
"On a day like this when you come off a big weekend and the crowd is down a little bit and it's been emotional, and they are good, they know what they're doing," Renfroe said. "It seems like you always need somebody to take the game over for you. He did that."
Bobby Huddleston is being counted on to be a key hitter for the 2003 Tigers.
Junior Cory Dueitt got the start for the Tigers, his first of the season, and pitched well. Allowing just one hit and no runs in three innings of work, he left the game leading 1-0 thanks to Huddleston. Leading off the second inning, he hit the first pitch he saw from Winters deep over the green monster in left field for a solo home run. Taking the early lead, Auburn would be forced to gain the lead back after a rough fourth inning from freshman pitcher Josh Sullivan.
In just his second outing of the season following hernia surgery a little over two weeks ago, the 6-4 right-hander gave up a single to Brad Sheffield to start the fourth inning and before he would exit he would load the bases with no outs. That brought on Speigner. Moved to the bullpen for just these circumstances, Speigner said that he was ready to go out and keep the Trojans scoreless.
"Sullivan is still struggling a little bit to find it and he's still behind everybody," Speigner said. "He'll be there but they want to get him out there and get him used to game situations. That's why he came in against Clemson and that's why he came in today. He'll be a key in our bullpen by the end of the season."
Facing the number five, six and seven hitters in the Troy State lineup with the bases loaded, Speigner almost pulled off the unlikely. Left fielder Chad Howard lifted a 1-2 fastball to center field that scored Sheffield from third to tie the game. A pop up to Scott Schade at third base and a ground out to Tug Hulett at second put an end to the Trojan threat with just one run scored and gave the Tigers momentum heading to the bottom half of the fourth to score a run and retake the lead.
Levale Speigner throws during Tuesday's game.
"It was tough," Speigner said. "You come in and try to control the damage and limit the runs. I was sick at myself for even giving up the fly ball because I didn't bury that two-strike pitch. He shouldn't have even hit that ball. I am happy that I only gave up one out of a bases loaded situation."
Showing his speed, Moran singled to lead off the fourth and advanced all the way to third base when Howard led the ball roll between his legs and go all the way to the wall. The junior would score on batter later when Amonite grounded out to second base, showing solid fundamental baseball. That put Auburn up 2-1 and they would add to the lead later in the game.
Huddleston would endure some pain before coming through with a big blow later in the game. Throwing his fastball and slider with precision, Speigner coaxed a Troy State batter into a foul ball in the top of the fifth inning that just glanced off the bat. Catching Huddleston square in the facemask, it dazed the big catcher and he was almost removed from the game. Refusing to come out, he caught the rest of the inning before getting checked by Auburn Doctor Mike Goodlett.
Auburn escaped a Trojan threat in the top of the seventh inning thanks to some clutch pitching from closer Steven Register. With Speigner cruising with a 2-1 lead, Troy State got something going when designated hitter Ashton McKelvey hit a high chopper to Karl Amonite at first base. The big junior was unable to make the play and Troy State was in business. After a groundout to third base that moved McKelvey to second, Renfroe went to the bullpen for Register. Throwing just four pitches, he struck out number nine hitter Clint Wade to preserve the one-run lead.
The lead would grow in the bottom half of the seventh as Huddleston belted his second home run of the day and fourth of the season. With nobody out, he got the pitch he was looking for off Troy State reliever Brandon Erwin and drilled it deep over the left-center field wall to make it 3-1 Tigers.
Auburn added two more insurance runs in the eighth inning as Huddleston doubled down the left field line to score Sean Gamble and Josh Todd. Gamble led off the inning being hit by a pitch while Todd singled through the right side in his first at-bat of the season.
Register would strike out three over the final two innings to finish with four strikeouts and only one hit allowed in 2 1/3 innings of relief. He earned his fifth save of the season and threw just 26 pitches for the game.
Auburn returns to action this weekend when the Tigers are host to 2002 NCAA Regional invitee Elon for a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times are scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. The starters for Auburn will be Arnold Hughey, Colby Paxton and Eric Brandon.