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February 16, 2014

Back on track

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. | Auburn's offense broke through in the finale of the Snowbird Classic, clinching a winning weekend with a 7-3 win over Connecticut on Sunday.

The Tigers (2-1) pounded out nine hits and took advantage of numerous fielding miscues by UConn (0-3) to put seven runs on the board despite leaving 12 men on base.

Auburn also stole six bases on the day, giving the Tigers 10 swipes through the first three games of the season. Last year, Auburn did not steal its 10th base of the year until the Tigers' 14th game and did not steal more than five in any game in 2013.

"We had some opportunities early," Auburn head coach Sunny Golloway said. "We let some opportunities get away from us, but it's early in the season and we understand that. I thought we did a good job. We stepped on the gas and tried to steal some bases and do some things today to give us more opportunities, and that worked out. You've just got to put the ball in play sometimes, and that's what we were able to do."

Freshman Keegan Thompson (1-0) got the win with a nine-strikeout performance in his Auburn debut, the most by a Tiger pitcher since Jon Luke Jacobs had 11 against South Alabama in 2012. Thompson gave up just one unearned run on two hits in 5.2 innings.

"(Keegan was) really special," Golloway said. "He had a lot more strikeouts than I would have liked to have seen. When you have to strike out a lot of people, your pitch count gets up. We went and got him at 99 pitches, but that allowed us to go to the bullpen. It was good for Reid Carter to get in there with two outs and work out of a jam, and I thought Terrance Dedrick did a good job for us closing. When he's down in the zone, he's good, and when his breaking ball comes around, he's going to be electric."

Offensively, the Tigers put at least one runner on base in every inning except the fifth. Three seniors led the way at the plate with multi-hit performances. Damek Tomscha led the way with a 2-for-4 day, driving in three runs and scoring another Ryan Tella, was 2-for-4 in his first action of the season, scoring twice, and Dan Glevenyak had two hits in three at-bats, driving in and scoring one run apiece.

Senior Blake Austin and freshmen Anfernee Grier and Damon Haecker had one hit apiece for the Tigers.

Auburn sent nine men to the plate in the third inning, batting around for the first time this season and scoring four runs to take a 4-0 lead. With one out, Tella reached on an infield single, stole secon and moved to third when Thompson reached on a throwing error. A grounder to third by Daniel Robert drew a throw to the plate, but Tella slid under the tag to give Auburn its first run. Tomscha then drove the first pitch he saw into right field, bringing home Thompson to make it a 2-0 game. One pitch later, Jordan Ebert put down a perfect squeeze bunt, bringing home Robert for the third run, and an Austin single to center brought home Tomscha to make it 4-0.

After Thompson retired the first 11 batters he faced and kept UConn hitless into the fifth, a double, a passed ball and a base hit put the Huskies on the board for the first time in 22 innings, making it a 4-1 ballgame. UConn then cut the deficit in half with a two-out rally in the fifth. Darras doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch, then scored on an infield single to make it a 4-2 game.

Auburn got both runs back in the sixth. The Tigers drew three straight walks to open the inning (Grier was picked off first for the first out), and Thompson reached on another error to load the bases. Then, with two outs, Tomscha dropped a base hit into short right, bringing home Tella and Glevenyak to give Auburn a 6-2 lead.

The Tigers would tack on one more in the seventh on a Glevenyak sacrifice fly to right, scoring Austin from third to make it 7-2. UConn scratched out one more run in the eighth.

Auburn resumes play at home Wednesday afternoon against Alabama State.



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