AUBURN, Ala. – No. 17 Auburn used seven runs in the middle innings and strong relief pitching to power past Indiana 8-4 in the season opener Friday night at Plainsman Park.
“It was a good opening night,” head coach Butch Thompson said. “The crowd, especially with the temperatures being a little bit cool, it was good.
“You know some guys really passed it down,” Thompson added. “I thought it was a pretty good opening night for a lot of new players meshing with our returners. “
Ike Irish led the way from the plate with three hits in his Auburn debut, including a RBI double in the fifth inning that extended the lead to 7-4.
“Yeah, I was just trying to get on base any way I could, trying to extend the inning and pass it down,” Irish said.
“Ike Irish in his debut, a freshman hitting it in the three hole, he absolutely performed tonight,” Thompson added.
On the mound, John Armstrong turned in a career-high 3.1 scoreless innings and allowed just one baserunner to reach while striking out three. Tanner Bauman (1-0, 3.38) was the first to enter in relief and earned the win in his Auburn debut.
“It feels good when we have a defense like ours,” Armstrong said. “I can trust them. I can throw whatever I want, whatever I’m comfortable with because I know they have my back.”
“It just sets a really good tone,” Armstrong added of the win. “We worked all fall and all spring. I’m just happy to get out there with the guys.”
The Tigers (1-0) drew first blood by taking advantage of a fielding miscue in the bottom of the first inning, but Indiana (0-1) responded with a leadoff single followed by a two-run homer to take the lead in the top of the second.
After sophomore right-hander Chase Allsup pitched the first two innings, Bauman entered in relief to start the third and worked a 1-2-3 frame with a pair of strikeouts. Bauman ultimately pitched 2.2 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on one hit with one walk and three strikeouts.
Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the third, the Tigers loaded the bases for the second straight inning and this time took advantage of the threat, ultimately scoring three runs in the frame. Bryson Ware delivered his second single in as many at-bats to even the score before Caden Green put a sharply hit ball in play that led to the go-ahead run. The lead was extended to 4-2 on a wild pitch.
Ike Irish started the bottom of the fourth with his second single of the game, and Justin Kirby extended the lead with a two-run homer to left, his first in an Auburn uniform and the team’s first of the season.
Indiana clawed back into the game with a pair runs in the fifth, one of which was unearned, but Armstrong entered with two on and two out and struck out his guy on four pitches to end the inning. The righty retired the first seven batters he faced.
Irish’s previously mentioned fifth-inning double extended the lead to 7-4 before Nate LaRue put the finishing touches on the scoring with a sacrifice fly later in the frame.
Irish was joined by Kason Howell and Ware with multiple hits in the game, while Kirby drove in multiple runs and reached base four times. Cooper McMurray and Green also recorded their first hits as Auburn Tigers.
Auburn’s bullpen trio of Bauman, Armstrong and Will Cannon, who also made his Auburn debut in the game, allowed just seven baserunners in the final seven innings.
Game two in the three-game series between Auburn and Indiana is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. CT at Plainsman Park.