The win improves Auburn to 6-4 overall while Davidson falls to 3-7.
“We’re we’re at right now in this juncture of the season and us not playing very well, we’ll definitely take that,” Assistant coach Bill Mosiello says. “It becomes contagious. In the Florida State series even though we didn’t play well for eight innings we had some good ninth innings and fell just a little short. We’re trying to build some character and some identity that we’re a club that will play for nine innings.
“It’s frustrating also because we played so poorly at times. We scored some runs early, we’re just not mature enough yet to put pressure consistently on the other defense and to handle our bunting game. We’ve done a pretty good job with our base stealing, we’ve been aggressive and our percentage is good. We’re going to continue to get better and stay aggressive. We’ll take the win because we’re at a point where wins are important for us to get some momentum, but it’s frustrating because we’re a better club than this.”
Trailing 7-5 heading to their last at-bat, Auburn had not touched reliever Mike Frongello in the eighth inning and had looked futile for the better part of Wednesday’s game, but that wasn’t the case in the ninth. Leading off, freshman second baseman Justin Hargett battled through eight pitches before working a walk to get the offense untracked. Right fielder Mike Bianucci then reached on an infield single to extend his hitting streak to 16 games and give Auburn a shot at the comeback victory.
Things looked like they just weren’t to be for Auburn on a Hunter Morris smash to second as Davidson’s Danny Weiss wheeled and threw to the second base bag. The throw appeared to pull the shortstop off the bag, but Bianucci was called out much to the chagrin of Slater.
It didn’t matter in the end as Joseph Sanders came up and delivered a sharp single through the left side to score Hargett and cut the lead down to one. With pinch runner Jamie Drinkard on for Morris, the Tigers rolled the dice and started the runners. The double steal was effective and proved to be big as Kevin Patterson’s slow roller to third was misplayed and a wild throw to the plate allowed Drinkard to score and Sanders to move to third with the winning run.
Up next left fielder Brian Fletcher was hit by a pitch to load the bases for fellow freshman Tony Caldwell. In as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, Caldwell worked Frongello to the brink before an outside fastball on a full count forced home Sanders with the winning run. Sanders says while it wasn’t the prettiest of victories, he’s happy with how the team responded to some adversity.
“We’ve had some tough battles the last few games where we weren’t able to pull it out,” Sanders says. “It feels good to finally get one under our belts. We felt comfortable because we knew our bullpen would keep us in the game, they’ve done it all year. It was just up to us to get something done at the plate.”
Sanders scores the winning run for the Tigers in Wednesday's game.
Perhaps the most impressive thing in Wednesday’s game was the pitching of the Auburn bullpen. Coming in after starter Luke Greinke’s outing, allowing four earned runs on six hits in four innings, relievers Michael Hurst, Bradley Hendrix and Evan Crawford combined to allow just three hits and no runs in five innings while striking out eight. Particularly good was Crawford who struck out five in two innings.
Auburn got on the board first with Trent Mummey the catalyst early. Leading off the game, the speedy freshman lined a double into right field to get the Tigers started. Up next Hargett followed suit with a perfect bunt single past Davidson starting pitcher Ian Horkley. With runners of the corners and nobody out, Bianucci followed with a sacrifice fly that easily scored Mummey with the game’s first run. That would be it though as Horkley came back to end the threat at just one.
Following a scoreless top of the second by Greinke Auburn came back to put two more on the board. Brian Fletcher singled to right field to open the inning and Jenkins followed with a triple to right field. The hit scored Fletcher to put Auburn up 2-0. One out later a Mummey single to center field pushed across Jenkins to make it a three-run lead for Auburn and Greinke.
The chinks in the armor began to show for Greinke in the top of the third as Davidson scored two runs on a leadoff followed by back to back doubles from the Wildcats. Auburn got one run back in the bottom of the inning on a Fletcher single to left, but Davidson would answer and in a big way in the fourth.
In a groove early, Greinke showed signs of losing it in the third, but it was the fourth that did him in. Up first in the inning, first baseman Jay Honeycutt was hit by a pitch to get things started for the Wildcats. One out later catcher Tommy Piacenza, hitting just .148 entering the contest, homered to right field to tie the game at three and give Davidson some life.
His defense then let Greinke down as back to back errors by Hargett at second and Matt Hall at shortstop put runners on first and second. Following a strikeout left fielder Brett Shore singled to drive home a run. Before he would get out of the inning Davidson had scored five runs to take a 7-4 lead.
Hurst came on for the Tigers in the fifth and didn’t allow a run. Auburn responded with a single run in the bottom of the inning thanks to doubles by Hall and Fletcher. The second came with one out and drove in Hall to cut the Davidson lead back to just two and setting the stage for Auburn’s dramatic ninth inning comeback victory.
Hargett had two hits, the sixth time this season he's had at least two hits in a single game and the third game in a row he's accomplished the feat.
For the Tigers Mummey, Hargett, Sanders and Fletcher all had two hits as Auburn totaled just 11 hits on the night. Davidson was led by Shore’s two hits while Zach Kayne and Piancenza each added two hits for the Wildcats.
Auburn returns to action Thursday night at 6 p.m. against VMI in the first of a four-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times for the weekend are 6 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Auburn’s rotation for the weekend is Grant Dayton on Thursday, Bradley Hendrix on Friday, Cory Luckie on Saturday and TBA on Sunday.