Cory Dueitt (3-0) earned the victory in relief of starter Eric Brandon by pitching three innings, allowing just one hit and striking out one Elon hitter. Brandon, in his second start after changing his mechanics back to his original form, allowed just one hit in four innings and struck out four hitters.
Auburn (11-3) earned the victory despite a terrific performance by Elon pitcher Matt Garner. Throwing 104 pitches, he gave up just three runs on five hits in seven innings of work Saturday. Having to fight and scratch for every run in the game, Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said the contest should give his team plenty of experience for similar games once SEC play begins in two weeks.
"We hit the ball hard," Renfroe said. "I thought we had good at-bats. That's a baseball game. If you're facing a Paul Maholm (Mississippi State) or Vanderbilt's guy or anybody in the league that's going to happen. They made plays. I thought our pitchers did well, we only walked one guy out of the bullpen, and in this type of game that was huge. I thought we were solid today."
Cory Dueitt throws in Saturday's game.
Although the hitters battled and got enough runs for the win, it wouldn't have been possible without another solid performance by the Auburn pitching staff. Particularly impressive was Dueitt. Dominating the Phoenix for three innings, he has now thrown 12 2/3 innings without giving up a run. The streak began two weekends ago against Virginia and Dueitt has no intentions of changing things now.
"It was nice," Dueitt said following the win. "I knew that if I could just get it to the sixth or seventh and let Levale (Levale Speigner) and Stevo (Steven Register) take it over it would turn out good for us. That pitcher they had going for them battled his butt off and it was good to beat a guy like him. We needed to play a close game like that. It showed a lot for everybody to get in and battle like they did against him. It was a good win for us."
Auburn wasted a golden opportunity to get on the board in the first inning when leadoff man Clete Thomas reached on an error by the Elon third baseman. After stealing second on the first pitch to Sean Gamble, Thomas advanced to third when the sophomore left fielder grounded out to second base. With just one out Moran walked to put runners on the corners for Karl Amonite. Fouling off two pitches with Moran on the move, Amonite finally connected but hit a one-hopper right at the second ,who started an easy 4-6-3 double play to end the inning and the Tiger threat.
The Tigers wouldn't waste the chance in the third inning after stifling an Elon rally in the top half of the inning when the Phoenix left the bases loaded thanks to some clutch pitching by Brandon. After walking Brian Ingram to load the bases with two outs, the junior got left fielder Chris Price to fly out to Gamble to end the inning. Pumped up after surviving the threat, Auburn got all the runs it would need in the bottom of the third.
With one out, Thomas again reached on an error, this time by second baseman Gary Morris. Gamble, who has improved his all-around game, bunted for a single to put runners on first and second with Moran coming to the plate. Sitting on a 0-1 pitch, the junior drilled a long fly ball off the top of the Green Monster in left field for a double that scored Thomas and moved Gamble to third. Amonite pushed across the second and final run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to center and Auburn led 2-0 going to the fourth.
That would be the final inning for Brandon, who suffered some slight soreness in his throwing arm because of the change in throwing motion. Taking over, Dueitt retired the Phoenix in the fifth before senior Bobby Huddleston gave the Tigers some insurance in the bottom half of the inning. With two outs and nobody on, Moran was hit by a pitch to give Auburn a little life against Garner. Waiting on a change-up, Amonite singled through the right side of the Elon infield to push the speedy Moran to third. Huddleston continued to do damage on the weekend as he singled to center to score Moran and make it 3-0 Tigers.
Karl Amonite singles against the Phoenix.
Elon would finally get on the board in the eighth off Speigner. Without his best stuff, the senior gave up a one-out single to Evan Tartaglia through the left side to put the Phoenix in business. After stealing second, he advanced to third on a error by Chuck Jeroloman at shortstop. He then scored on a Price single to right field. That put an end to Speigner's day as Register came on to close the door. Admittedly without his best stuff, the sophomore struck out the side to end the inning and then kept the Phoenix scoreless in the ninth to pick up his sixth save of the season.
The Tigers and Phoenix play the final game of a three-game set beginning Sunday afternoon at 1:30. Junior Colby Paxton will get the start for Auburn against Tyson Blocker for Elon.