By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn's baseball team took control in the first inning and beat Alabama A&M 7-3 Tuesday at Plainsman Park. For head coach Sunny Golloway and for his players, it was welcome relief after a trying weekend.
"I think our guys did a terrific job coming out," Golloway said. "Our guys came out ready to play. I could tell in our pregame, tell in our batting practice. There was an extra step in our dugout and our locker room. The guys came to the yard really excited. We jumped on them quick, and that was big."
In their own Tiger Invitational, the Tigers lost 5-0 to California on Saturday and 3-2 in 10 innings to East Tennessee State on Sunday. By Monday morning, outfielder Hunter Kelley, first baseman Patrick Savage and pitcher Chase Williamson were no longer part of the team.
Golloway said the Tigers went to play with more resolve and more energy.
"It feels different right now," Golloway said. "We talked to a lot of guys about if they want to be here or not. Several of the guys realized `I want to be here. I want to do whatever it takes and I want to win.'"
Freshman right fielder Anfernee Grier, who was 2-for-3, said Auburn players pulled together.
"It's been tough, but we've come together," Grier said. "It's making us a better team. Coach spoke on it yesterday. There is beauty in the pain."
Highly touted freshman pitcher Kevin Davis made his first appearance, starting Tuesday's game. He threw 168 innings for T.R. Miller and for Team USA last summer and had a tired arm when he arrived.
"It was a good feeling being back out there, being able to compete, being with my teammates," Davis said. "I felt good, but the ball is still not coming out great. I'd say I was about 80 percent today. I'm not 100 percent, but it's getting back there. I'm seeing improvement."
The Tigers scored five runs on six hits in the first inning and got two more in the fourth. They had 11 hits after four innings, but they were held hitless over the last four innings by Alabama A&M pitcher Taylor Knight.
"You have to keep your foot on the gas," Golloway said. "We have to learn from the game, but I'm not going to be hard on our guys about that. They jumped out to the big led and took pressure off our pitching."
Five Auburn baserunners were thrown out. Another was lost on catcher's interference.
"I am going to tell our guys we have to take advantage of our baserunning opportunities," Golloway said. "Our hits aren't coming like we want them to. We're going to be based on pitching and defense."
Davis pitched three innings, giving up two runs on two hits and walking four. He got his first collegiate win.
"I'm just going to keep getting stronger and keep getting everything back," Davis said. "The big thing is I have to get comfortable really driving off my back side, get back to throwing the ball with power. I have to get comfortable and let the ball fly."
Trey Cochran-Gill, Auburn's sixth pitcher, struck out the side in the ninth inning to end it.
Auburn improved to 4-4 going into a weekend series against Presbyterian at Plainsman Park. Alabama A&M fell to 3-8.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter:Follow @PMarshOnAU