used its week off wisely and came out roaring Friday afternoon in the first game of the NCAA Baseball Regional at Dick Howser Stadium to defeat South Alabama 13-5 and set up a matchup with Florida State
, 3-2 winner over Army on Saturday at 6 p.m. central time.
The Tigers pounded out 17 hits and Arnold Hughey got his eighth win of the season and first career NCAA Regional victory as second-seeded Auburn (33-24) got revenge for an earlier loss to South Alabama this season and moved on in regional play.
"I'm just very proud of our ball club today," Auburn's Tommy Slater said. "I thought we came out and had a tremendous approach to the plate with a very good and competitive pitcher in P.J. Walters. I'm real proud of our kids. I thought our pitchers did a tremendous job of filling up the strike zone. It was just very well played defensively, offensively and on the mound by our guys."
On March 1, South Alabama's Walters pitched a complete game shutout at Auburn as the Jaguars won 3-0. This time around things were different as the Tigers pounded Walters into submission early and often. The big blow was a six-run third inning that gave Auburn a big lead and put the Jaguars behind the eight ball the rest of the game.
"They had some guys on that could run and they stole a few bases," Walters said. "When I made my mistakes they hit them. They didn't miss them and they didn't foul them off. They hit it and hit it hard."
For Auburn the story was an offensive balance unlike any other game this season. Every Auburn regular with the exception of shortstop Adam Stacey had at least two hits with hitters 6-7-8 accounting for seven hits and seven runs batted in during the contest. First baseman Karl Amonite said the team was just prepared for Walters and executed their game plans to perfection.
"We had already faced him so we kind of had an idea of what he was going to do," Amonite said. "Throughout the week we had practiced that because we knew we were going to be in this regional. I think that really helped our approach offensively."
Arnold Hughey is congratulated by catcher Josh Bell after an inning in Friday's game. Hughey allowed four runs on six hits in five and one/third innings to earn the victory. His three strikeouts moved him into fifth-place all-time at Auburn passing former Tigers Chris Bootcheck and Gregg Olson.
South Alabama got on the board first in the second inning thanks to the long ball from the bottom of the order. Aaron George led off the inning with a single, but was erased on a double play ball off the bat of Quendon Montgomery. That proved to be important for the Tigers as catcher Joel Collins hit a solo home run to left field to give the Jaguars the 1-0 advantage heading to the bottom of the inning.
That's when the Tigers would answer back with a home run of their own. Following an Amonite groundout to start the bottom of the second, left fielder Jeff Boutwell hit a shot that cleared the left field wall for his third home run of the season. With the game tied at one Hughey would settle down and allow his offense to take over in the third.
Leading off, center fielder Bruce Edwards hit a ground ball that was misplayed by Jeff Morris at second base. The error allowed Edwards to reach first and start a huge inning for the Tigers. Following a steal of second and a line out by Stacey to the second baseman, Tyler Johnstone singled to center field to score Edwards and give Auburn the 2-1 advantage. That set the table for Clete Thomas to do some damage and the right fielder did just that, hitting a towering shot over the right field wall for his ninth home run and a 4-1 Auburn lead.
That was just the start of things for the Tigers as catcher Josh Bell singled up the middle to bring Amonite to the plate. Getting a pitch to hit Amonite lined it just over the right field wall for his 11th home run of the season and a 6-1 Auburn lead. It was his third home run in the last two games. Following a Russell Dixon walk, back-to-back singles by Josh Donaldson and Edwards made it 7-1 Tigers after three innings.
Auburn added a single run in the bottom of the fifth on a double by Dixon that scored Boutwell from first. Ahead 8-1 the Tigers had to hold on as South Alabama made a furious comeback beginning in the sixth. Leading off Froemming earned a walk from Hughey on four pitches to get the rally going. Patrick Weaver followed with a double just over the head of Ben Sprague in left field.
With runners on first and second and nobody out Hughey got David Freese looking, but wouldn't be as successful with Josh Morgan has he hit a liner off the scoreboard for his 17th home run of the season. That would be it for Hughey on a day when he just wasn't at his best.
"I don't think I ever really got in that groove," Hughey said. "I wasn't able to settle down and get real comfortable. I was just out there battling really the whole time. I left some pitches up early. The home run was up right across the plate. I settled down after that and made some pitches...I came back out in the sixth and didn't really have any location. Everything was up and they were hitting it."
Now leading just 8-4 things would get even closer as the Jaguars got a single run in the seventh off Madden to make it a three-run game.
The Tigers weren't through though as they added some insurance in the bottom of the seventh. Leading off the inning Bell singled to left field and Amonite followed suit with a single to center to put runners on first and second with nobody out.
A Sprague sacrifice bunt moved the runners over and Dixon was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Donaldson. Facing Jaguar ace reliever Chase Christianson, Donaldson fought off a pitch into right-center for a single. The hit scored both Bell and Amonite to make it 10-5 Tigers. An Edwards shallow single to left scored Dixon to make it a six-run lead heading to the eighth. The Tigers tacked on two more in the bottom of the eighth inning to make the final 13-5.
Regional Scoreboard And Box Scores
FSU, 51-18, defeated Army despite getting just two hits vs. the Cadets, who fell to 38-13. Saturday's game will be televised on the Sun Sports network.
Eight Auburn players had at least two hits as the Tigers blasted South Alabama 13-5 in Friday's regional opener in Tallahassee.