The victory was the first career win for Sullivan this season and he said that he’s getting more comfortable with every outing on the mound as a starter thanks to pitching coach Matt Myers.
“He’s helped me an unbelievable amount,” Sullivan said. “Up until this year I was more of a thrower than a pitcher. He came in and we worked on some things. We’ve worked on location and some pitches and he’s been working with me non-stop since the fall. It has helped an un-Godly amount. I don’t think I would be near what I am now without him.”
It was the second consecutive impressive outing for Sullivan as a starter this season coming off last weekend’s performance at Florida State. In six innings against the Seminoles he gave up just two hits in a game the Tigers eventually lost. This time around coach Tommy Slater said that Sullivan was just as good again.
“That’s what he did at Florida State and for six innings he two-hit them,” Slater said. “That’s his second really good outing in a row. The kid has really good stuff and he’s starting to get a feel for the mound. You guys are starting to see how good he can be.”
Josh Sullivan throws a pitch against VCU.
His start to the season has been a surprise to most Auburn fans, who saw Sullivan throw sparingly each of his first two seasons while playing catcher, third base and even some first base. That’s more than Slater knew about him when he arrived, but he said it didn’t take long to find out the kid had talent.
“I had no clue,” Slater said. “Last year in Gainesville he didn’t pitch. I didn’t get a chance to see him. I had no idea until fall practice and I’m watching him in fall practice and I’m going ‘wow, this guy has a chance to be special’.”
Just like in Friday’s game the Tigers struck first against the Rams with a couple of runs in the first. Second baseman Tyler Johnstone led off the game with a sharp single to left field and right fielder Clete Thomas earned a walk to quickly put a runner in scoring position against Renfrow. Showing an aggressive attitude, Auburn stole second and third to put the pressure on. Following a Josh Bell groundout the move paid off as Karl Amonite singled up the middle to score both runners and give the Tigers the early 2-0 advantage.
Tyler Johnstone slides into third base after stealing his fifth of the season. He also leads the team with a .415 average following a three-hit game on Saturday.
With Sullivan cruising on the mound Auburn came back and virtually put the game away in the second inning thanks to the power of Amonite. With one out in the frame Johnstone again singled to set the table for the heart of the Tiger order. Continuing his hot streak Thomas ripped a double into the right field corner that scored Johnstone all the way from first for the three-run lead. That would be just the tip of the iceberg for the Tigers on this chilly Saturday afternoon as a Bell walk set the stage for Amonite to do his damage again and he came through with a long blast to center field for his fifth home run of the season. Now ahead 6-0 the Tigers put it on cruise control with Sullivan mowing Ram hitters down on the mound.
Auburn added a single run of the game in the third as a Bruce Edwards lead off walk led to the seventh run of the game. Johnstone was next up and he delivered his third hit of the day, another single, to put Edwards in scoring position. Following a deep fly ball to center field that advanced both runners, a Bell groundout scored Edwards with the Tigers’ seventh run of the game.
Both teams failed to score in the middle innings, but the Tigers put the finishing touches on the game in the eighth with four more runs to seal the deal. Leading off Johnstone reached on a throwing error by the VCU third baseman and Thomas hit his second double of the game, this one off the left field wall, to move him to third base with nobody out. Following a Russell Dixon sacrifice fly to left that scored Johnstone, the Rams intentionally walked Amonite to give the Tigers two runners on base. Later in the inning, following a Adam Stacey walk, shortstop Phillip Stringer had his biggest hit of the season to this point with a double to right-center that scored all three runs to make the final 11-0.
Johnstone’s three hits led the way for the Tigers on a day when they had 10 total hits. Thomas, Amonite and Stringer each added two hits with Amonite adding five RBI to his team-leading total. The victory improves Auburn to 7-2 while VCU falls to 3-2 on the season. Auburn goes for the sweep on Sunday with transfer Josh Blake on the mound. The first pitch is scheduled for noon.