Leading up to Opening Day, focus was placed on starting pitching for the Tigers. Auburn’s season opener ended up relying on relief pitching to guide the Tigers to an 11-2 win over Georgia Southern on Friday night.
After starting pitcher Davis Daniel allowed four hits and two runs, one of which was unearned, in two innings of work, head coach Butch Thompson decided to pull him from the game when he noticed something looked off with the pitcher during the second inning. The difference stemmed from tightness in Daniel’s forearm, according to Thompson.
“The stuff was different in the second inning than the first,” Thompson said. “And when he had said he tightened up, I just… let’s move on, you know first game of the year.”
Elliott Anderson came in to pitch in the third. He pitched four scoreless innings and struck out seven, tying a career best. He allowed only two hits.
“I just see maturity,” Thompson said. “I see rhythm in his delivery, and he does have a ton of game experience.”
After Anderson took the Tigers through the sixth inning, Auburn handed the ball over to freshman pitcher Carson Skipper.
In his first appearance in a Tiger uniform, Skipper pitched three innings. He struck out one, walked one and only allowed three hits.
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“We’ve had a feeling about Carson Skipper,” Thompson said. “We feel like he can get outs. Saw a good change up again, just like against our hitters. And we saw the fastball play up enough where they’re fouling the ball off late over the first base dugout.”
The two relief pitchers combined to throw seven scoreless innings. Anderson was awarded the win and Skipper was awarded the save.
“Really good job by those two left handers,” Thompson said.
The relief pitchers were helped out by an offensive breakout in the first inning that put Auburn ahead by three runs by the time Anderson took the mound.
After some defensive miscues allowed Georgia Southern to score the first run of the game and take a 1-0 lead in the first, the Tigers responded with some impressive offense of their own.
Auburn had four hits in the first inning and scored five runs. Three batters hit by pitches also aided in getting the Tigers on base.
Will Holland, Conor Davis, Kason Howell and Matt Scheffler all singled in their first at-bats of the season. Judd Ward, Rankin Woley and Edouard Julien were the batters hit by pitches. Steven Williams and Ryan Bliss both hit sacrifice flies for RBIs. All nine Tigers in the lineup had an at-bat in the first inning.
“It really was a good first day,” Bliss said. “We had literally production from top to bottom. I feel like this lineup really doesn’t have any holes. You can’t pitch around somebody to get to somebody just cause you think they’re not gonna be as capable as the guy before them.”
Bliss hit a triple, walked once and had two RBIs in his first game as a college baseball player. Julien led the team with two hits on the night plus two RBIs. Woley also had two RBIs.
Holland had one hit, two walks, stole two bases and scored three runs. Howel, Scheffler, Davis and Woley all had one hit each.
“We have a lot of weapons, a lot of pieces and we all come together as one,” Bliss said. “This lineup is really dangerous.”
Auburn faces Georgia Southern for the second game in the series Saturday at 2 p.m. CST at Plainsman Park.
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