Blowing the game open with six runs in the first inning, the Tigers (10-3) cruised to an 11-1 victory over the visiting Phoenix (7-4) at Plainsman Park.
Starter Arnold Hughey improved to 3-0 on the season by pitching five innings, allowing just four hits and no runs. Center fielder Javon Moran had three hits to lead to 15-hit attack for the Tigers with Bobby Huddleston adding two hits and four runs batted in, including his fifth home run of the season.
"I don't know what to say," Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said following the win. "You get six runs (in the first) and their ERA is like a 2.30. The thing I am impressed with is Arnie (Hughey) still went out there and acted like it was a one-run game because sometimes you get sloppy. He kept going and I thought that was a key that he was able to get his pitch count."
Arnold Hughey threw a career-high 93 pitches in Friday's win.
The relievers also did the job as Chris Dennis pitched two innings and gave up just one hit while striking out five of the seven batters he faced. Freshmen continued to take the mound for Auburn as Josh Sullivan and Josh Bell pitched the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
Sullivan, who had yet to get an out in his first two appearances, allowed two hits and one run in eighth. Bell, who started the day behind the plate, walked one and struck out two Elon hitters in the ninth inning to seal the win for the Tigers. Although he doesn't know what his future holds on the mound, Bell said that he's just happy to get a chance on the mound once again.
"They came to me," Bell said of the coaching staff's decision to let him pitch. "I told them, ‘Whenever you need me to help out the team I will do it.' I'm just thankful that they gave me the chance and I took advantage of it and did well."
Auburn wasted little time disposing of the Phoenix on Friday with a big first inning to break open the game. With one out and nobody on, Sean Gamble singled up the middle to get things started. Showing his complete offensive game, Moran put down a perfect bunt single along the third base line to move Gamble into scoring position. Following a Karl Amonite walk to load the bases, Huddleston continued his hot hitting of late by dropping a single into left field to score both Gamble and Moran for a 2-0 lead.
Moving to third on Huddleston's hit, Amonite would score moments later on a Bell single to right field and Auburn led 3-0.
With Tug Hulett at the plate, Elon starting pitcher Justin Weeks threw a fastball that glanced off catcher Barry Tejeda's mitt, allowing both Amonite and Huddleston to move into scoring position. Hulett couldn't capitalize on the scoring chance though as he flew out to short right field for the second out of the inning.
Hitting .395 coming into Friday's game, Scott Schade continued his upward climb by dropping a single into short right field to score both Huddleston and Bell to give Auburn a five-run lead. Chuck Jeroloman would put a cap on Auburn's scoring in the first with a long double to left-center that scored Schade from first. Holding on to a 6-0 lead the Tigers turned the ball over to Hughey and the left-hander made it stand up.
Using a fastball in the upper-80s and mixing in a nasty slider, Hughey kept Elon hitless through two innings of play, allowing Auburn to add to the already imposing lead in the bottom of the second. Gamble walked to lead off the inning and Moran followed with a double to deep right field that moved Gamble to third with still nobody out. Ammonite, who is getting more consistent at the plate, drilled a single to right field to score both Gamble and Moran easily. Ahead 8-0 going to the third, Auburn would do more damage to the visiting Phoenix.
Karl Amonite leads off second against Elon.
Sitting on a 2-0 fastball, Schade singled to left field to open the inning. Following a walk to Jeroloman, Clete Thomas grounded into a double play that moved the junior third baseman to third with two outs. Gamble again reached base, this time on a hit-by-pitch, to bring Moran to the plate. Coming through again, the center fielder doubled to right field on a blooper just over first base to score Schade to make it 9-0 Auburn. With the commanding lead, Hughey said all he had to do was go out and throw strikes.
"I got off to a rough start and threw a bunch of pitches," Hughey said of his performance. "We came in here and scored six runs and I went back out there just like it was a new game, but we had a six-run lead and I could settle down and establish my fastball. I could locate it and then work off it with all my other pitches. I was pretty successful, I think"
Hughey kept the Phoenix down in the fourth and fifth innings before Dennis took over in the sixth. He blistered Elon for two innings, throwing his fastball and slider effectively. He turned things over to Sullivan in the eighth with Auburn leading 9-0. Things looked like they would continue to be bad for the quarterback/pitcher when he walked the leadoff batter on a full count pitch and then gave up a single through the right side and a single to center field. With the bases loaded and no outs, he got tough, striking out the next hitter before giving up a sacrifice fly to Gamble in left field. Sullivan struck out the final batter of the inning to allow just one run and gain some much-needed confidence for later in the season.
The Tigers put the finishing touches on the victory in the eighth behind the strong swing of Huddleston. With one out in the inning Kyle Bohm reached after being hit by a pitch to bring the Montgomery native to the plate. Jumping on a 1-0 fastball, he belted a drive to the deepest part of Hitchcock Field that cleared the wall in center for a two-run home run. After his third home run in the last two games, Huddleston said he's feeling comfortable at the plate after working on his swing for the last few weeks.
"I'm getting lucky I guess and that's all that matters," Huddleston said after the game. "Me and Coach Renfroe have been working on some things to build my confidence back and that's probably the biggest thing. I just happened to get the barrel on the ball and it's going. I'm helping the team out and that's all that matters."
Bell closed out the ninth inning by striking out two Elon hitters with a fastball clocked as high as 88 miles per hour and complimenting that with a curveball and slider. In just his third time on the mound since last summer, Bell showed that he may be a threat to get some action in mid-week games for the remainder of the season.
Auburn and Elon meet again Saturday at 3 p.m. when Eric Brandon takes the mound to face Matt Garner for the Phoenix. The game will immediately follow Auburn men's basketball as they play the #4 Florida Gators beginning at 1 p.m. inside Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.