March 22, 2014
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Auburn got another outstanding pitching performance from freshman Keegan Thompson and combined some big hits with some small-ball in a 4-2 win at Tennessee on Saturday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The Tigers (17-7, 4-1 SEC) clinched their second-straight SEC series and have now won five straight against Tennessee (18-4, 2-3), dating back to the 2012 season.
Auburn will wrap up the weekend series with Tennessee at 2 p.m. Sunday. Sophomore RHP Justin Camp (1-2, 2.90) will look for his first SEC win of the season against Tennessee sophomore RHP Andrew Lee (2-0, 3.46). Rod Bramblett and Van Riggs will have the call on the Auburn IMG Sports Network.
“Our guys are tough,” Auburn head coach Sunny Golloway said. “We’re mentally tough, and when things don’t go our way, we stay the course and keep grinding it out. I see a baseball team getting better right now. ... Our guys are getting better, and we’ve just got to stay in the moment, stay in today. One of our goals is to get to Omaha, but it’s got to be about today.”
Thompson (5-0) was again outstanding in his sixth career start, giving up just one run on five hits in 7.1 innings pitched. He retired the first 12 Tennessee batters he faced, running a streak to 18 straight and 26 of 27 going back to last Saturday’s start against Texas A&M. He also fought his way through trouble in the fifth and sixth innings, working his way out of jams as Tennessee stranded five runners across those two frames.
“The special thing about Keegan, he didn’t really have his best stuff,” Golloway said. “He didn’t have his fastball command. The ball was running in on him, and he definitely didn’t have his off-speed stuff. He kept coming in the dugout frustrated. But what I love about him, he’s such a competitor, he’s going to find a way to get out of it every time. And that’s what he did.”
After Tennessee had cut a 4-0 Auburn lead in half in the eighth inning, senior Terrance Dedrick worked a perfect ninth, looking stronger than he has all season to pick up his third save and second in two games.
Eight of nine Auburn starters picked up a hit and all nine reached base at least once as the Tigers pounded out 13 hits against four Tennessee pitchers. Jordan Ebert led the way with a 3-for-5 effort, while Ryan Tella, Damon Haecker and Dan Glevenyak were each 2-for-4. Haecker drove in a pair of runs while Glevenyak scored once and had an RBI of his own.
Auburn matched a season-high with four extra base hits in the game, getting doubles from Tella, Blake Logan and Connor Short, plus a triple from Glevenyak. The Tigers countered that with three bunt hits plus a sacrifice bunt - including two squeeze plays that went for hits - keeping the Vols’ defense on their heels.
For the fourth time in five SEC games, Auburn struck first. Tella led off the second inning with an infield single, then moved to second on a throwing error by the Vols’ second baseman. Blake Logan then sacrificed him to third, and a two-out base hit by Haecker brought him home to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Haecker drove in a second run with a squeeze bunt that turned into a base hit in the fourth. Logan scored to make it 2-0 after he had ripped a one-out double, then advanced to third on a bunt single by Robert.
Auburn would double its lead in the seventh. A one-out triple by Glevenyak brought home Sam Gillikin, who had walked with one out and advanced on an Ebert single, to make it 3-0. Tomscha would then put down a perfect squeeze bunt that turned into a base hit, scoring Glevenyak to give the Tigers a 4-0 lead.
Tennessee cut the deficit in half in the eighth, scoring a pair against the Auburn bullpen. After a leadoff double chased Thompson from the game, a pair of singles and an RBI groundout brought home a pair of Volunteer runs to make it 4-2. But Jay Wade was able to get out of the inning with no further damage, giving way to Dedrick for the ninth.
Hunter Martin (2-1) took the loss for Tennessee, giving up two runs (one earned) on seven hits in six innings of work. Scott Price, Will Maddox and Christin Stewart each had two hits for the Vols.