March 25, 2014
Trey Wingenter earned his first win as an Auburn starter (Zach Bland photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – As a smattering of fans watched on a cold Tuesday night at Plainsman Park, Auburn’s baseball team jumped on top early, took Kennesaw State’s best shot and ran away to a 10-5 victory.
The No. 21 Tigers won for the 12th time in 14 games and improved to 18-8 going into their weekend home series against Missouri, starting Thursday night on ESPNU. Kennesaw State lost its seventh straight and fell to 12-16.
Auburn coach Sunny Golloway said it was a grind from the start.
“It is hard to win that game,” Golloway said. “That game is a grind. I’m not going to sit here and pretend we aren’t kind of looking ahead. Thursday is a big game for our program. We are going to be on national television. We had to grind this one out. They made a good run at us, but we came right back and responded.”
Sophomore Sam Gillikin, a highly regarded signee out of Hoover High School in 2013, played his sixth game since returning from back problems. He was 3-for-3, drove in two runs and scored three to lift his batting average to .429.
“Tonight was a great win for the guys,” Gillikin said. “We fought hard. It got a little close there, but we really put our foot down and set the tone the rest of the game.”
Gillikin’s back problems started last fall. He credits trainer Anthony Sanderson with getting him back.
“(He) has done a fantastic job with me,” Gillikin said. “I’ve been bothering him for about two years now. … It was one of those injuries that took a while to heal, but it feels good and it feels good to be back.”
Gillikin’s two-run double sparked a four-run Auburn second. The Tigers got two more in the third on Ryan Tella’s leadoff home run over the right field fence and Keegan Thompson’s run-scoring double to take a 6-0 lead.
Auburn Trey Wingenter didn’t retire a hitter in the top of the sixth. Jacob Millman and Daniel Koger finally got the Owls out, but they scored five times with the help of four wild pitches, four hits, two walks and an error.
The Tigers answered with two runs in the third when Thompson and Gillikin singled, Damon Haecker put down a sacrifice bunt and Ebert hit a two-run single.
Jay Wade took over on the mound and gave up just one hit in two innings. Reid Carter pitched the final inning, giving up one hit.
Wingenter gave up nine hits and was charged with three runs in five innings. He earned his second career win and first as a starter. He had a career-high five strikeouts.
Ebert, Haecker, Tella and Thompson each had two of Auburn’s 15 hits. Kennesaw State 13 hits.
Auburn’s Thursday game against Missouri starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday’s game starts at 6 p.m. and Saturday’s game at noon.
Golloway said Dillon Ortman will start on Friday and Thompson on Saturday. He said left-hander Mike O’Neal will return to the rotation on Saturday.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: