Auburn baseball coach Butch Thompson may soon face a tough decision about his weekend pitching staff.
Garrett Wade made a strong case for weekend work in tonight’s game at South Alabama on a pitching staff that’s already strong at the top of the rotation with sophomores Tanner Burns and Jake Owen.
Wade, a freshman from Hartselle and the state’s 2018 Gatorade Player of the Year, pitched five dominant innings to lead the 17th-ranked Tigers (15-2) to a 6-2 victory over the Jaguars (8-6) at Stanky Field in Mobile.
Wade struck out eight and walked four. He allowed only two hits, one of which was an opposite-field home run by Wells Davis in the fourth.
The home run marked the first run allowed by Wade in his Auburn career. He has now pitched 14 innings, allowing six hits and seven walks while striking out 21.
“His stuff is undeniable,” Thompson said of the left-hander, who needed 91 pitches to get through five innings. “He’ll learn to get more efficient, but he pitched well. Coming out and scoring a couple of runs early really helped settle us into the game.”
Early returns: The Tigers wasted no time taking command of the game in the top of the first inning.
Will Holland led off the game with an infield single. After two walks loaded the bases, Conor Davis ripped a single into left field for a 2-0 lead.
Auburn went right back to work in the second to extend the lead to 4-0. A Judd Ward walk, followed by a Matt Scheffler double, a Steven Williams RBI groundout to shortstop and a throwing error on a stolen base attempt plated two more runs.
Going deep: Davis’ fourth home run of the season closed the gap to 4-1, but Auburn extended the lead to 6-1 in the bottom of the sixth.
South Alabama closed the gap to 6-2 in the bottom of the eighth when freshman Ethan Wilson blasted a solo home run to center field. Wilson, a freshman from Andalusia, has reached base in all 14 games this season and has hit safely in 12 of 14. Wilson entered the game leading the Sun Belt in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He was second in batting average, fifth in RBIs, seventh in total bases and tied for ninth in run scored.
Stat sheet: The Auburn offense was paced by Conor Davis, the only Tiger with more than one hit. He also drove in two runs and scored once. Relief pitchers Kyle Gray and Elliott Anderson combined to allow only one run and four hits over the final four innings.
For USA, Wells Davis led the way with a home run and a single. The Jags finished with six hits and 16 strikeouts.
Coachspeak: “Auburn played better than we did in all facets, We made four errors, and very rarely will you beat an average team with four errors; you’re not going to beat a good team like that with four errors and a bad start. We need to pitch better and play better defense. We let some opportunities slide by, and we won the last three innings of the ballgame. It was the first six (innings) that we didn’t play well enough.” — South Alabama coach Mark Calvi