Clete Thomas and Ben Maitland each had two hits for Auburn as the Tigers did enough offensively to get the victory and move to 22-9 on the season. The loss drops the Blazers to 14-14. Coach Steve Renfroe said the pitching was the story of the game for his team.
"It was solid," Renfroe said. "We pitched well. Coming off this weekend their hearts were cut out. I was really anxious to see what we could do, and we did enough. We played defense, turned double plays and pitched well. Clete got his wheels going for us, he even went backwards a couple of times, but he set up an inning. Down the order we did well."
Starter Chris Dennis earned the victory for Auburn as the designated starter on the night. He allowed just one run on five hits in four innings while striking out three. Relievers Cory Dueitt and John Madden closed things out for Dennis, who said the outing was just what he needed to continue his push towards more time on the mound this season.
Chris Dennis moved to 2-0 on the season with the win.
"It's tough," Dennis said. "That's another reason why I wanted to go out and throw well tonight because my innings have been so sporadic this year. It's tough watching guys in front of me pitch time after time after time, but they are pitching so well you can't root against them. They are pitching so great. It's a luxury to have four or five guys down in the bullpen that are pitching great like that. I was glad to get some work in tonight to get ready for the weekend."
After one trip through the Auburn order the Tigers were ready to do some damage to UAB starter Grant Addison with Dennis shutting down the Blazers early. In the third left fielder Sean Gamble hit a bloop single to left and shortstop Chuck Jeroloman worked a walk to bring Thomas to the plate. The sophomore put down a perfect bunt and beat the throw from third baseman Drew Connell to load the bases for Josh Bell.
Adding his to RBI lead for the Tigers, Bell singled sharply to left to score Gamble with the game's first run. The rally would take a big blow though as Tug Hulett ground into a 6-4-3 double play to push across Jeroloman, but that left just Thomas on base for the Tigers. Following a walk to catcher Josh Sullivan, Auburn put on the double steal. Sending Sullivan from first base, Auburn drew a throw from the UAB catcher. That allowed Thomas to score before the Blazers caught Sullivan in a rundown. Leading 3-0, Auburn would have plenty of pitching to keep the lead safe the rest of the way despite a scare later in the game.
The Blazers did manage a run off Dennis in the top of the fourth after a leadoff double by Nathan McCorkle, but Auburn would get it right back in the bottom. Derek Sain led things off with a double to the wall in left-center and quickly moved to second on a sac bunt by Maitland. With the Blazer infield drawn in, J.T. Williamson reached on a bloop single just reaching the outfield grass, but Sain was forced to stay at third. It didn't matter in the end as a Gamble sacrifice fly to left field pushed him across to make it 4-1 Auburn.
The Auburn Men's and Women's 2004 Swimming and Diving National Champions were honored during Tuesday night's game.
With Dueitt now on the mound the Tigers were cruising defensively and stretched the lead even more in the sixth with Sain again the catalyst. After working a walk to start the inning, the sophomore first baseman came all the way around to score when Maitland drilled a double into the left field corner. Ahead 5-1, Madden would come on in the eighth, but ran into some trouble before settling in to close things out for the Tigers.
Number nine hitter Sam Clark singled to right off Madden to begin the inning harmless enough, but when shortstop Josh Miljavic doubled into left field off the glove of Jeroloman, all of the sudden things looked like they might unravel for the Tigers in a hurry. That especially looked to be the case when Levi Patmon walked to load the bases, still with nobody out. Not giving in, Madden got Daniel Hill to ground into a 4-6-3 double play and McCorkle on a strikeout to escape the trouble with just one run. Neither team would do any more damage to make 5-2 the final.
The Tigers now prepare for their toughest test of the season when they travel to Oxford to face the 5th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels. The Western Division leader, Ole Miss enters with a conference record of 7-2 while Auburn is 4-5. Thomas said that after last weekend's tough series with LSU, getting a victory over UAB is needed before the trip to Mississippi.
"Last weekend was tough," Thomas said. "They played great, we played great. It wasn't really much we could do about it. Somebody has to win. Getting this win will try to get us onto a roll heading into the weekend. We play a really good Ole Miss team. We need that."