It was a great opportunity for a get right game following a loss Saturday night as the Tigers hosted the Alabama State Hornets on Tuesday evening. A picture-perfect day on the plains pitted Auburn against an in-state foe from just down I-85.
Auburn starter Konner Copeland made his season debut against an ASU team that was hitting well heading into today’s game, with two starters boasting a slugging PCT north of .600. Copeland had his work cut out for him, looking to continue Auburn’s pitching prowess into the second full week of the season. Coming into the game, the Tigers’ 14 runs allowed through seven games are the fewest since 1996.
Copeland got off to a rough start in his first frame, conceding four straight Hornet hits that all made contact with an Auburn defender in some form or another. Copeland was able to escape the first frame with minimal damage done and Auburn only down 1-0.
Auburn’s offense fell silent in the first frame, but the bats came alive off a deep shot to left field from Cam Hill to put the Tigers ahead 4-1. Auburn continued to rack up offense in their half second inning with RBIs from Dyal and Howell to make it 7-1. A standout moment from the game occurred when Auburn offensive phenom 1B Sonny DiChiara was walked to first with two runners already aboard.
Auburn Senior RHP Tyler Drabik entered the game in relief of Copeland in the third inning. He recorded a team-high five strikeouts en route to the team racking up 12 on the day. Drabik faced 11 Hornet batters, and only conceded one run.
Brooks Fuller, John Armstrong, and closer Blake Burkhalter all took the mound in relief with Fuller only recording one out and allowing four runs. In a 6th inning that featured two free bases, three walks issued, a wild pitch, and a catchers' interference all with two outs, the Auburn offense doubled up the Hornets 12-6. Auburn’s final run was launched over the monster by DiChiara who tallied his fourth of the season.
C/RHP Nate LaRue finished the game for the Tigers, tossing a scoreless 8th and 9th inning on 37 pitches en route to an Auburn victory. LaRue finished the 8th inning and the game on a strikeout.
Following the game, Coach Thompson expressed gratitude for the opportunity to get much-needed experience for some of the teams’ key players including Nate LaRue and Cam Hill. Thompson felt that the team was afforded a few extra opportunities that will not be given to them come conference play in a few weeks, but at the end of the day the biggest thing about this evening’s game is that “Tigers Win.”
Drabik (1-0) collects the W in his season debut, Melendez (0-1) is saddled with the loss. Auburn will host UAB at Plainsman Park this Wednesday, March 2. First pitch at 6:00 p.m. CST.