On the mound sophomore Trey Wingenter picked up his first win of the season, allowing three runs on nine hits in five innings and striking out five. Jay Wade was the pitching star of the night for the Tigers, allowing just one hit in two scoreless innings out of the bullpen against Kennesaw State (12-16).
In addition to Gillikin, Jordan Ebert, Damon Haecker, Ryan Tella, Daniel Robert and Keegan Thompson all had two hits for the Tigers on a night when the Auburn offense shouldered the load said Coach Sunny Golloway.
"We swung the bat really good and we needed that," Golloway said. "This morning when I woke up I was a little concerned. I know that Kennesaw had lost three games at home this weekend by a total of just four runs. I like their club. I think they've got good athletes. When I started thinking about that and us having to play on Thursday (Missouri), our guys are excited to play on Thursday, they really are. I thought it might be a little bit of a set-up game."
Coming on strong after missing much of the fall and early season because of a back injury, Gillikin is hitting .429 since being put back in the Auburn lineup. He said for him it's a matter of thanks and perseverance that has made the difference.
"First of all I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," Gillikin said. "I want to thank our trainer, Anthony Sanderson, he's done a fantastic job with me. I have been bothering him for a while, the past two years. He's really helped me get back out here. Tonight was a great win for the guys. We fought hard. It got a little close there at one point, but we really put our foot down and set the tone the rest of the game."
In the second inning Auburn got the offense going in a big way as Tella singled and stole second to move into scoring position. Following a Blake Austin strikeout, Robert singled to center field to drive in the first run of the game. Hitting a ground ball to short that appeared to be a double play, Dan Glevenyak reached when Kennesaw State's Kal Simmons booted the ball for an error.
Following a pop up for out number two, Gillikin got a pitch to hit and hit a laser into left-center for his first double of the game. The hit scored two runs to make it 3-0 Tigers. An Ebert single gave Wingenter a four-run lead to work with heading to the third inning.
Stranding two runners in the top of the inning, the sophomore pitcher got even more support in the third as Tella led off for the Tigers and hit a towering shot over the K Corner in right field. The blast was the third home run of the season and pushed the Auburn lead to five. With two outs a walk to Glevenyak kept the inning going for the Tigers. Stealing second and advancing to third on an error by the catcher, he scored on a Thompson single for a 6-0 Auburn lead.
After allowing at least two runners to reach base in each of the first four innings and getting away with it, Wingenter again ran into trouble in the sixth. This time he wouldn't survive as he gave up a double and walked the next man before leaving following a single. All three would eventually score as Jacob Milliman and Daniel Koger came on in relief and combined to allow two runs on two hits with three wild pitches. Throw in an error and it made for a five-run inning for the Owls to put them right back in the game.
With the lead now down to one run the Auburn offense needed to get back on track. With one out Gillikin walked and moved to second on a single from Ebert. Continuing his strong week, Haecker singled to center field to drive home Gillikin. With Ebert moving around to third it set up the perfect squeeze situation and Connor Short delivered, laying one down the third-base line to score Ebert for a three-run lead.
Back in control with Wade on the mound, Auburn put the finishing touches on the win with two more runs in the eighth. Singles from Thompson and Gillikin got things off to a good start for the Auburn offense with Ebert bunting both over into scoring position for Haecker. Getting a pitch to handle, the freshman singled to left field to score both and push the lead back to five.
Reid Carter came on pitch a scoreless ninth and strike out two as the Tigers won for the 11th time in the last 13 games.
Auburn will face Missouri in a three-game series at Plainsman Park beginning Thursday night. Game times for the series are 6:30 p.m. on Thursday (ESPNU), 6 p.m. on Friday and noon on Saturday (SportSouth). The Tigers will send senior Dillon Ortman to the mound on Thursday, Thompson on Friday, and senior Michael O'Neal on Saturday.