Karl Amonite had two hits and three RBI to lead the way for the Tigers in the win while starter Jared Shore earned his first career victory after pitching four innings and allowing just one run on five hits. Relievers Clarence Nicely, Grant Cardwell, John Madden and Michael Nix close things out as the Bulldogs were held scoreless the final six innings in the Auburn win. Coach Tommy Slater said the victory was a solid one for his club in all phases of the game.
"We wanted everybody to get some work," Slater said of his pitching rotation. "We wanted everybody to get some work. Nix did not throw last week during the week and then he didn't throw until Sunday and then didn't have one of his better outings Sunday. He's always better when he gets mid-week work, so we were throwing him and Madden tonight because both of those guys are always better when they get their mid-week work. Everything went to script. The guys threw the innings we wanted them to throw. We wanted Cardwell to face their lefties. Everything just went according to plan."
Bill Whitehead was the starter for the Bulldogs and got the loss after giving up seven hits and five runs in five innings of work. Both pitchers started out strong, but the Bulldogs would strike first on this night only to see Auburn run away with this game in the middle innings. In the third inning Jeff Dils led off with a single to left field and moved to third just moments later on a double by Chet McDonough into right-center. He scored on a John Morgan fielder's choice to give the Bulldogs the early advantage.
Karl Amonite has homered in each of the last two games.
Auburn didn't get on the board until the fourth inning, but the one inning alone would be enough to earn the victory on this night. Leading off the inning Thomas reached on an error by shortstop Parker Gargis, the son of former Auburn quarterback Phil Gargis. Catcher Josh Bell followed with a single through the left side to give the Tigers a pair of runners on and Amonite coming to the plate. The senior delivered for the first time on this night as he doubled high off the wall in right field to score Thomas and tie the game at one.
Jeff Boutwell followed Amonite and hit a sharp single to third base that the Samford player fielded cleanly, but the throw was off-line and got away from the first baseman. The error allowed Bell to score and Auburn still had runners on first and third with nobody out. A Russell Dixon single scored Amonite to make it 3-0 Tigers, but that was all the Tigers would manage as the bottom of the order failed to get another run across.
The Tigers expanded the lead in the next inning, once again thanks to the long ball efforts of Amonite. Leading off the inning Thomas once again got things going, this time with a walk. After a Bell flyout to center field, Amonite again had the big blow. This time he launched a long fly ball deep into left-center that cleared the wall for a two-run shot to give the Tigers a commanding 5-1 advantage and gave Amonite his second homer in as many games.
"The last two games have been really different," Amonite said. "I have been seeing the ball well on a consistent basis, but I have just been lacking the mechanics to get my swing back around. I have worked in the cages everyday. I have been in the cages with our hitting coach for 20 minutes a day for a while now. The coaches just saw something. They didn't tinker with my swing, but gave me a pointer on what I should do. It has worked out for me. They told me to keep my hands back and get some separation between my hands and my feet. The last couple of games it has worked for me."
Auburn extended the lead in the seventh inning on a RBI double by Bell that scored Thomas from first and put the game away in the eighth inning on a two-run shot by Thomas to right field. It was his sixth home run of the season and perhaps signaled the re-emergence of the top of the Auburn line-up as the Tigers head to Columbia this weekend to face the South Carolina Gamecocks.
"During a baseball season there are ebbs and flows and guys are hot at times and cold at times," Slater said. "If you weren't you would have years like Dave Magadan had in 1983 where you hit over .500. Karl really swung the bat well. Clete swung the bat well. Really, up and down our lineup I was proud of our at-bats. The guys had a good approach."
Auburn returns to action this weekend when it travels to South Carolina to face the Gamecocks in a three-game series. Game times for the weekend are 6 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. There is no television for the series.