Fans who came to this afternoon’s game expecting the same fireworks found in Tuesday’s game against visiting UT Martin, which ended with Auburn coming from behind to secure 15-9 victory, may have been shocked to find out that the same two teams who combined for 24 runs just 24 hours prior would be locked in a pitchers’ duel between high-velocity starters.
Auburn starting pitcher Garrett Wade last saw action against Alabama A&M on February 20, but he had his work cut out for him entering the game Wednesday afternoon as he looked to avoid the disastrous start that teammate Bailey Horn had the previous afternoon, conceding three runs from the first five batters he faced. Wade was up to the challenge and immediately went to work cutting through the UT Martin order.
Wade boasted one hit, two walks, eight strikeouts, and no runs in his five innings pitched, seeing only 19 Skyhawk batters. Following a pair of three-pitch flyouts lead off the game, Wade beaned UT Martin outfielder Jordan Stoner and it looked like yet another Auburn starter had lost their handle early. However, Wade bounced right back and responded by striking out five straight, four of them swinging.
While Wade dealt on the mound for Auburn, the visitors sent out an ace of their own. UT Martin starter Austen Bullington held the Tigers in check for nearly his entire time on the bump, allowing only two hits across his 20 recorded outs. Bullington’s lone mistake fell on an 0-2 pitch that Conor Davis sent over the left field wall to put Auburn up 1-0 in the bottom of the 4th.
Both bullpens found success against bats that fell ice cold on the chilly afternoon. Kyle Gray arrived in relief of Wade after the starter had tossed 72 pitches, and collected his lone three outs in four batters faced. Matt Scheffler hit a full count single to right field off of UT Martin reliever Sam Folks, who advanced to third off of a dropped throw to first and a Steven Williams groundout. Scheffler was waved home following a Folks wild pitch putting the Tigers up 2-0. Folks was pulled for Nick Wohlbold after only recording one out.
Will Morrison entered the game for Auburn and gave the Skyhawks their first scoring opportunity of the game. Following a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly to center, UT Martin’s Blake Davis sat at third base with two outs in the 7th. Morrison exited the game and Carson Skipper arrived in relief, and put a swift end to the Skyhawk rally by striking out leadoff man Creighton Eldridge.
Skipper put the game on ice after escaping the 7th inning jam, fanning the first four batters he faced, and ending the game with a second pitch lineout to Ryan Bliss. Skipper faced seven batters in his 2.1 innings of relief, allowing zero hits and notching seven strikeouts to pick up his second save of the year.
FINAL – Auburn-2 UT Martin-0 – W-Wade (2-0) L-Bullington (0-2) S-Skipper (2)
Both teams struggled with a lack of offensive production, combining for only six hits on the day. The biggest hit of the afternoon came off the bat of Conor Davis who went yard for the second time this season with a towering shot over the left field wall. Auburn left four runners stranded, with Ryan Bliss being thrice left out to dry. Auburn played well defensively, recording zero errors, and notching a shutout despite five of the seven Skyhawk baserunners reaching scoring position.
Auburn will be back in action for a weekend series against the visiting Roadrunners of USTA. Game 1 will be on Friday, March 8th at 6 p.m., with the Saturday and Sunday games scheduled for 2 and 1 p.m. respectively. Auburn will make one last road trip to Mobile for a one-game date with South Alabama before opening conference play against Tennessee next weekend.