Auburn, Ala.--For the first time early in the 2008 season the Auburn Tigers fell behind early, but it didn’t seem to bother them in the least as a three-run deficit in the first inning was overcome easily in a 12-4 win over East Tennessee State at Plainsman Park. The win improves the Tigers to 3-0 on the young season.
The story of the game for Auburn was the production up and down the lineup as five different Tigers had at least two hits led by junior Luke Greinke. In the lineup for the second consecutive day in center field, Greinke had three hits and a career-high five RBI to lead an offensive attack that pounded out 14 hits on the day.
Also stepping up big was fellow junior Mike Bianucci. He homered for the second time in three days and finished with two hits and two RBI. Junior shortstop Matt Hall added two hits as did true freshmen Hunter Morris and Justin Hargett. Fellow freshman Kevin Patterson homered for the second time this season and also drew three walks.
On the mound sophomore Taylor Thompson earned the victory for the Tigers, giving up four earned runs on six hits in five innings. Grant Dayton earned the save as he pitched the final four innings, allowing just two hits and no runs. Auburn Coach Tommy Slater says that for his team is was a complete game in just about every phase.
"I thought Grant Dayton was tremendous," Slater said. "He really did a nice job those last four innings. I thought our offense's ability to answer, they put up a three-spot in the first and we come back with three, was huge. Taylor (Thompson) finally settled down and started making some pitches, which was critical for us.
“I thought up and down our lineup the guys did a nice job,” he added. “Kevin, what a great day. He had three or four walks. He was very patient at the plate. He got a pitch to hit late in the game and drives it out of here. Mike had the big home run early in the game. Luke’s was a hit and run. That shows you when you take the right approach to the ball. He splits that ball in half and it runs right out of here.”
Early on it was the Buccaneers that got the offense going as a three-run first inning was punctuated with a two-run home run off Thompson. Not getting down, Auburn came back with three of their own as leadoff man Brian Fletcher walked to start things off and quickly stole second to move into scoring position for Greinke. Getting a pitch to pull, Greinke singled into left field to put Auburn on the board. Bianucci followed with a deep blast to right-center that cleared the wall to tie the game.
Both teams would add single runs in the third inning, Auburn’s coming as Bianucci doubled to start the frame and later scored on a Joseph Sanders’ sacrifice fly. The Tigers would break the game open in the fourth thanks to Greinke.
“It was a big offensive day, especially since it was the first time we’ve gotten in trouble early this year,” Greinke said. “We were able to match every run they put up. We took some pressure off the pitching and they settled in to put up some zeros to end the game.”
Luke Greinke steals a base in the first inning, one of three on the day for the Tigers.
With one out in the fourth Hargett singled to center field and immediately stole second. A walk to Fletcher followed to bring Greinke to the plate. Looking to just put the ball in play, Greinke drove one deep to left field and over the wall for his first home run of the season. The blast put Auburn up for good 7-4.
“I was just trying to hit a hard line drive or a hard ground ball,” Greinke said. “I caught it better than I thought I did, but I still didn’t think it was going out. I was happy to see the outfielders stop running and I realized it was gone.”
Auburn wasn’t done on this day though as the Tigers added two more in the fifth with Hargett and Fletcher both driving in runs. With Dayton on and shutting down ETSU, Auburn’s offense went back to work as Greinke’s RBI single scored Hall to put the Tigers ahead 10-4. The final two runs came courtesy of Patterson in the eighth. Following a Sanders single, Patterson jumped on a fastball and drove it over the bullpen in right-center to make the final 12-4.
A href=http://auburntigers.cstv.com/sports/m-basebl/stats/2007-2008/au03.html>Box Score
Auburn looks for the four-game sweep of ETSU on Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. when sophomore Austin Hubbard takes the mound for the start.