After pushing the original start date back by one day due to forecasted thunderstorms, Auburn and Oakland were finally able to do battle on the diamond on Wednesday.
And while rain didn't play a major role in the game, Auburn made sure to rain down hits on the Grizzlies, winning handily 17-1 at Plainsman Park.
Freshman Trace Bright started the night on the mound for the Tigers in his collegiate debut, wasting no time attacking hitters. The Montgomery native sat down all the three batters he faced in the top of the first, retiring two on strikes.
“It was an adrenaline rush,” Bright said. “Great feeling finally to get out there in a game... it was an awesome feeling.”
The Tiger offense was not quick to come to the aid of the young righty, however. Auburn was unable to push a run across the plate in the first frame, and Oakland’s Blake Griffin hit a leadoff home run in the top half of the second.
Despite giving up a long ball in the early going, Bright was able to remain composed, racking up two additional Ks in the second,
“I missed my spots here and there, but I’ll smooth things out in the next few weeks,” Bright said.
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In efforts to support its pitcher, Thompson’s offense began to heat up in the bottom of the second inning, posting seven total runs. RBIs came from Judd Ward, Matt Scheffler, Rankin Woley and Conor Davis, with Garrett Farquhar also stealing home on an errant throw to second.
After a shutdown third inning performance from Bright, Thompson opted to send out left-handed pitcher Garrett Wade to the hill, ending the freshman’s first career start after three innings of one-run two-hit work. Bright recorded a total of six strikeouts, and his skipper took notice.
“For his first start ever... I thought (Bright) elevated his game a little bit,” Thompson said. “So positive to see him maintain his velocity.”
Following the replacement of his starter, Wade posted a scoreless fourth frame and picked up one strikeout before being replaced by sophomore left-hander Carson Skipper.
Skipper took the game an additional two innings for the orange and blue, giving up no runs and tallying two Ks before the Auburn offense finally resurrected.
After four consecutive innings of being shut down, Auburn found itself back on the board in the bottom of the sixth when Woley blasted a line drive into deep left-center, pushing Davis across the plate and increasing his teams lead to seven runs.
Seb Thomas made a brief one-inning appearance in the top of the seventh and continued Auburn’s trend stint of exceptional pitching. The freshman sat the Bears down in order on six pitches.
The offensive production continued into the seventh inning, as sophomore Ryan Bliss belted a line drive into left-center, with bases loaded. Bliss picked up 3 RBIs and pushed the Tiger lead to 11-1.
In the bottom of the eighth – in their last appearance at the plate – the Tigers did not stop the scoring. Freshman Johnny Ceccoli, who had come in for John Samuel Shenker in the top of the inning, launched a solo home run to lead off the inning and was later followed by RBIs off the bats of Bliss, Austin Turner, Woley and Ceccoli again.
The Tigers successfully batted around, pushing the score to 17-1.
The game had no more runs from that point forward. Freshman Mason Barnett was sent to the hill to close the game for the Tigers, and did just that. The hard-throwing righty retired the side, topping out at 96 mph.
Tonight’s victory moves Thompson’s squad to 5-0 to begin the season. The Tigers will now shift their attention to this weekend’s three-game battle with UCF. First pitch of the series between the Tigers and Knights will be on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. CST.
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