Tiger pitchers turn up the heat

AUBURN – Through 18 innings and more than five hours, Auburn’s pitchers sent a parade of hitters back to the dugout on a cold Saturday at Plainsman Park.

Ryan Tella hit an inside-the-park home run in the third inning.

Four Auburn pitchers – left-hander Daniel Koger, right-hander Terrance Dedrick, left-hander Michael O’Neal and right-hander Tre Cochran Gill – combined to give up one earned run and seven hits in two games in the Auburn tournament.

In the second game, the Tigers beat College of Charleston 5-1. They lost 2-1 to MTSU earlier Saturday on one misplaced pitch that became a two-run homer in the eighth inning.

O’Neal got the start against the Cougars and pitched six scoreless innings, giving up six hits, walking one and striking out five to get the win. Cochran-Gill pitched three hitless innings, giving up a run in the ninth on a walk, a passed ball, a wild pitch and a groundout.

Auburn coach John Pawlowski said, other than one wayward pitch, he was pleased.

“Daniel had his off-speed stuff working,” Pawlowski said. “Tre did a good job coming out of the bullpen. Michael just fills up the strike zone.”

O’Neal said the pressure was on after the loss in the first game.

“There was a lot of pressure to me to throw strikes and set the tone for us,” O’Neal said. “We can’t lose games like that. Two in a row would really be unacceptable, so I had to go out there and compete as hard as I could.”

Centerfielder Ryan Tella sparked the Tigers against the Cougars with a rare two-run inside-the-park homer in the third inning. His sizzler down the left field line ended up under a bench in foul territory. Instead of raising his hands to signal the ball was unplayable, which would have resulted in a ground rule double, left fielder Brandon Murray tried to dig it out. Hitting coach and third-base coach Gabe Gross waved him on.

“Gabe teaches us when the ball goes under there to throw your hands up,” Tella said. “He put his hand right back under it. Gabe was waving me around third. I don’t think it happens that often in college baseball. It shifted the momentum for us.”

Shortstop Dan Glevenyak scored on first baseman Garrett Cooper single, and the Tigers took a 3-0 lead.

“The thing that really sparked us in that game was Ryan Tella’s hustle,” Pawlowski said. “If he’s not running hard, they get the ball back in. That turned the game.”

Tella went 3-for-5, also scoring two runs. Shortstop Dan Glevenyak and third baseman Damek Tomscha had two hits apiece.

“The first game left a bitter taste in our mouths,” Tella said. “We are way better hitters than what we showed in the first game. Gabe put a little fire under us. He got on us a little bit, and we deserved it. We knew what we had to do the second game.”

The first game was a taught pitcher’s duel. Johnny Thomas’ two-out, two-run homer off Dedrick in the eighth inning made the difference. Auburn had the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth but catcher Blake Austin and pinch hitter J.B. Crowe popped out to end the game.

Auburn, which moved to 5-1 on the season, plays Indiana State in the final game of the tournament Sunday at 2 p.m.

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