March 3, 2002


Brandon breaks Thoroughbreds

Auburn sophomore tossed first nine-inning perfect game in school history

By Sean Ryan Co-Founder @collbaseball


#9; Jim and Debbie Brandon graduated from Murray State in 1974 and are natives of Murray, Ky. One of Jim Brandon's cousins owns an automobile lot - Brandon's Auto World - across the street from the Thoroughbreds' Reagan Field. Several of the Brandon relatives still call Murray home.


#9; You would think Auburn right-hander Eric Brandon would have a soft spot for Murray State.


#9; If he does, it didn't show on Saturday.


#9; With his parents listening via computer and his high school coach in attendance, Brandon became the first pitcher in Tigers history to throw a nine-inning perfect game in a 9-0 defeat of Murray State at Plainsman Park in Auburn, Ala. Brandon, a sophomore from Nashville, also became the first SEC pitcher to reach perfection since Georgia's Don Woeltjen beat Georgia Tech 5-0 on May 3, 1963 in Atlanta.


Auburn's only previous perfect game was a seven-inning gem April 30, 1991 when Jason Johnson beat LaGrange College 14-0. Brandon was making his third start of the season after spending the first several weeks in the bullpen. In those three starts, he is 2-0 with two runs allowed, eight hits, no walks and 23 strikeouts in 19 innings. For the season, he has a 2-0 record with a save and a 1.80 ERA.


#9; "It still really hasn't hit me yet," Brandon said Sunday afternoon. "This morning, I finally realized what I did."


Brandon faced 27 batters and retired 27 batters on a total of 94 pitches - 69 strikes. Primarily using his 90-plus mph fastball and slider, Brandon struck out a career-high 12 batters - including the last four of the game.


#9; "It was obvious he had good stuff," Auburn coach Steve Renfroe said. "You could tell right off the bat he had good stuff. [But] you're not thinking perfect game."


#9; Earlier in the day, it was difficult to think about even baseball as a damp and dreary Alabama day posed a threat to the day's game.


#9; "I came here thinking I wasn't going to play," said Brandon, who has thrown a couple of one-hitters in high school. "That's why I was surprised at the way I pitched."


#9; Brandon arrived at Plainsman Park around noon and was told the game was still set for 3 p.m. From there, he prepared as usual then breezed through the first four innings on only 37 pitches - including eight in the third and five in the fourth.


#9; But Brandon wasn't the only one on cruise control. Jesse Rhoades, the Thoroughbreds' starter, allowed only a first-inning double to Bobby Huddleston through 5.1 innings. Auburn finally scratched against Rhoades in the sixth, when Mike Mueller's single plated Tug Hullet from second.


#9; As Brandon worked into the seventh, the perfect game wasn't necessarily on everybody's mind.


#9; "I was really concerned with winning the baseball game," Renfroe said.


#9; Clinging to the 1-0 lead, Tigers first baseman Scott Schade made a play that not only saved the perfect game, but also could have saved the lead. Schade, who happens to be Brandon's roommate, speared a ball ripped by Thoroughbreds designated hitter Brett McCutchan down the first-base line and made the play unassisted.


#9; "It was hit so hard, I didn't even see it," said Brandon, who added that third baseman Josh Todd and center fielder Javon Moran made clutch plays. "He said he had to backhand it. ...I told him I'd take him out to dinner."


#9; The Tigers broke out in their half of the seventh, pounding out five doubles and eight hits total to pad the lead to 9-0. Schade and Chuck Jeroloman each had two-run doubles in the outburst.


#9; Now that Brandon had room to breathe, about the only concern was his pitch count. Brandon, who served as the Tigers' closer the better part of last year and started this year in the bullpen, was on a pitch count of 90. Renfroe said Brandon solicited Sunday starter Colby Paxton's pitching chart to check on his pitch count late in the game. Had he been around 90 after seven innings, Renfroe likely would have pulled the plug despite Brandon's chance at history.


#9; "He wasn't going to out and risk his future for that," said Renfroe.


#9; As it was, Brandon was at 76 pitches through seven and returned to the hill.


#9; He struck out Alex Stewart to end an eight-pitch eighth inning, then saved his best for last. Brandon fired two fastballs and a slider to strike out Mike Voyles.


"That's when I got nervous," said Renfroe. "When he got one out. ...He's so close."


Next, he fired two fastballs and a slider to ring up Brian Boeshko. Pinch-hitter Charlie Ward saw two fastballs and a slider before Brandon let loose a fastball that secured his spot in Auburn lore (right).


"I started feeling it, and got some adrenaline going," said Brandon, who added that his teammates were goofing off and screwing around with him in the late innings to keep his mind off the perfect game. "I felt like I was throwing 100 mph that last inning. ...I felt like I could throw it by anyone. I just felt that good."


When it was over, the Tigers celebrated on the mound for a couple of moments then cleared the field, leaving only Brandon on the mound to soak in the history that had just occurred. He then walked off the field to the cheers of 2,551 fans and those of his teammates.


"I was just overwhelmed when it happened," Brandon said.


His parents already knew of his feat when he called after the game. As for any hard feelings for silencing Murray State, Brandon didn't catch a lot of flak.


"No, they didn't say anything," Brandon said. "They were kind of happy."


(photos by Mike Cortez, courtesy of Auburn Media Relations Office)