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March 10, 2013- -
AUBURN | Rocky McCord struggled with his command during the season's first month, but things are changing.
The sophomore, who shutout Eastern Illinois over six innings last weekend, was even more impressive against Brown on Sunday. Though he allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings of work this time around, he flashed exquisite control of his curve, slider and two-seam fastball in the Tigers' 6-3 win.
He struck out eight batters and touched 90 mph.
"I feel like I've gained better feel for my fastball, which is giving me more confidence with everything else," said McCord, who earned his second win of the season Sunday. "This team (Brown) could hit the fastball, so I had to use a different approach against them. I had to rely on my other pitches - and it worked out great. I felt great."
McCord didn't look great initially.
He conceded a pair of singles during the first inning on fastballs that caught too much of the strike zone. His plan was to attack Brown with fastballs and adjust if that plan didn't yield meaningful dividends.
McCord received feedback almost immediately.
So he began pounding the bottom portion of the strike zone with curveballs and sliders. Brown struggled to adjust to abrupt speed changes - McCord's fastball averages 88 mph and his other pitches are in the high 70s - and spent much of the afternoon lunging after pitches in the dirt.
The Bears began to adjust during the seventh inning by laying off those low pitches. That's when coach John Pawlowski elected to make a change.
Still, McCord's outing was an important success.
"I'm feeling so confident right now," the former Spanish Fort standout said. "I was all over the place earlier in the year. Now I'm able to locate my pitches better. I've got a lot of momentum now - and so does this team."
Auburn consummated the series sweep Sunday with a mediocre performance at the plate. The team finished with six hits and no player had more than one.
Yet the Tigers (12-3) made things happen in pressure situations.
Patrick Savage's second-inning double scored two runs. A single from Jackson Burgreen and a sac fly from Ryan Tella fueled a two-run rally in the fifth inning.
Dan Glevenyak stole a base during the seventh inning that elicited a throwing error, which allowed Burgreen to score another run. Another Tella sacrifice fly scored a sixth run.
Brown added a run in the seventh and two more in the ninth inning, though reliever Justin Camp settled down to quell the Bears' upset hopes late.
"It's very important for this team to continue to find ways to win," Pawlowski said. "It certainly was a big weekend for us."
The Tigers' good news didn't end there.
Junior starter Will Kendall, who missed much of last season and all of this season because of elbow surgery, worked through a 30-minute throwing session after the game. His location was sharp.
He is expected to debut either Tuesday at Kennesaw State or perhaps this weekend against Vanderbilt.