AUBURN, Ala. – No. 17 Auburn jumped out early and never looked back in 6-1 win that secured the season-opening series against Indiana Saturday in front of a sold-out crowd at Plainsman Park.
Joseph Gonzalez (1-0, 0.00) needed only 41 pitches to get through 5.0 scoreless innings en route to the win. The junior righty faced just one batter over the minimum and induced 11 ground balls that results in 13 outs.
“The fastball started working and he kept getting the swings he desired,” Thompson said of Gonzalez. “It’s really nice for an amateur pitcher to not stick with that breaking ball, trying to produce swing and miss. I think it shows a sign of maturity.”
“My main focus today was just throwing strikes and trusting my defense,” Gonzalez added. “Once I noticed they were swinging at everything, I think they knew I was a strike thrower. Once they kept hitting ground balls, I just kept throwing.”
Bobby Peirce led the way from the plate with three hits and three RBI, matching his career high at Auburn in both categories.
“That’s one of our captains,” Thompson said of Peirce. “If you’re going to have a team that’s going to continue to grow and play good baseball, your best players have to play well. Bobby is one of those players.”
“I really just tried to stay simple,” Peirce added of his approach at the plate. “Yesterday I was trying to do too much, just getting around some balls. Today I went back to my approach of staying up the middle and letting my hands do the work.”
After allowing a leadoff single to start the game, Gonzalez retired eight straight batters to get through the third having thrown only 26 pitches. He worked a 1-2-3 second inning and needed just five pitches to retire the side before throwing only 10 pitches in the third.
Auburn (2-0) started the scoring in the bottom of the third when Ike Irish picked up where he left off Friday night by splitting the gap in left center for a two RBI double.
The Tigers doubled the lead an inning later. Bryson Ware and Brody Wortham reached on a hit-by-pitch and walk, respectively, before Caden Green moved both into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Peirce then stepped to the plate and ripped an 0-1 pitch through the left side to score both.
After Gonzalez worked around an error and got through the fifth with one of his two double plays, Auburn went to the bullpen to start the sixth. Indiana (0-2) loaded the bases on two walks and a hit-by-pitch, but Chase Isbell inherited the bases-loaded, one-out jam and escaped it unscathed with a strikeout and flyout.
Riding the momentum into the bottom of the frame, Peirce extended the lead with a double down the left field line, scoring Green from first, before Foster capped off Auburn’s scoring with a RBI single back up the middle.
Indiana cracked the scoreboard with a run in the top of the seventh, but Tommy Vail made his Auburn debut in the eighth and faced the minimum with a strikeout in the final two innings.
Auburn’s one through three hitters went a combined 5-for-11 with six RBI in the game, and Ware recorded multiple hits for the second time in as many games to start the season.
The series finale between the Tigers and Hoosiers is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. CT.