Tigers Win Opener At C of C Classic

Casey McElroy

Auburn defeated New York Tech 6-3 Friday afternoon in the first game of the College of Charleston Classic.

Charleston, S.C.--Auburn starter Cory Luckie pitched seven scoreless innings and shortstop Casey McElroy had three hits including a three-run home run as the Tigers (7-3) defeated New York Tech 6-3 Friday afternoon in the opening game of the College of Charleston Classic.

In addition to McElroy, right fielder Justin Fradejas had three hits as Auburn's offense again struggled with consistency. The Tigers finished with 10 hits on the day, six coming from two players.

The story was the pitching of Luckie. Pitching into the eighth, the Prattville native allowed just six hits and walked two in his best outing of the season. Freshman Dillon Ortman and junior college transfer Ethan Wallen struggled to close things out as NYT scored three runs in the ninth to make things interesting. Luckie said it was all about making adjustments to a new park that was the key to his performance.

"It took a while for me to get adjusted," Luckie said after picking up his first win of 2011. "This was our first time coming to a new park. It's a beautiful park and layout but the mound was a little different. It's a little more flat. I felt a lot better as the game went along."

Looking for a complete outing by his team, Auburn coach John Pawlowski said while there were some good things on Friday the main thing he saw was another learning opportunity for his team.

"They wouldn't go away," Pawlowski said of New York Tech. "I thought our guys battled hard. I thought we did some positive things. Cory Luckie, I felt like he got better as the game went along. He got stronger. Part of the game is about making adjustments, whether it's as a hitter or a pitcher or to the field or to conditions. That's why you bring teams on the road. I thought it was a good lesson for our guys to go through, being able to adapt to a different environment and someplace they hadn't been before."

After a slow start the Tigers finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third inning. With two outs and Justin Hargett on first base after reaching on a fielder's choice, McElroy and Tony Caldwell both singled to load the bases for Dan Gamache. Continuing his hot week the Rhode Island native singled to right field to score two and give Luckie a cushion to work with.

Auburn added a single run in the third on a two-out single by Fradejas to score Cullen Wacker from second. He reached on a two-out walk and stole second base to get into scoring position for Fradejas.

Now with a 3-0 lead Luckie cruised through seven innings before the Tigers broke open the game in the bottom half of the inning. Leading off the inning Fradejas reached on an infield single and moved to third on a double from Hargett. The hit extended Hargett's hitting streak to 10 games and put Auburn in business.

Following a pop up by Creede Simpson, McElroy came to the plate looking for a pitch to drive. With the wind blowing out to left field the junior took a pitch the other way and got it over the wall for a three-run home run. It was his first of the season and pushed the Auburn lead to 6-0.

"It kind of came out of nowhere," McElroy said. "I knew I hit it pretty good. I was just hoping it was deep enough for the guy on third to tag. I think with the spin it might have gotten caught in the wind and it took it over."

A leadoff walk in the top of the eighth brought Luckie's day to a close as Ortman came on in relief. A victim of some tough breaks the freshman allowed an infield single and an error to load the bases with two outs. Facing Eric Cos, Ortman got ahead 0-2 before coaxing a fly ball to left field that freshman Jay Gonzalez gloved for out number three.

Trying to finish things off in the ninth, Ortman faced some trouble as a Hargett error following by a single from pinch hitter Dan Lackner gave New York Tech another serious scoring threat. This time the Bears didn't let the opportunity pass them by as Ali Rodriguez singled to center field to score two and break up the shutout. Moving to second on a throw to the plate, Rodriguez moved to third on a ground ball from Ryan Campbell.

On in relief of Ortman, Wallen allowed a single to Effrey Valdez to score the third run of the game for NYT, bringing Jerry Smith to the plate with still just one out. The junior settled down to get Smith on strikes and Graziani on a ground ball to Hargett to seal the 6-3 Auburn victory.

Auburn will send sophomore Slade Smith to the mound on Saturday at noon against #19 College of Charleston. Smith is 1-0 with a 6.10 ERA in two starts this season.

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