Auburn Goes Deep Into Pen To Defeat No. 2 Tech

Levale Speigner improved to 5-0 on the season with a victory over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Tuesday night.

Atlanta, Ga.--Before the baseball Tigers left for Atlanta, Coach Steve Renfroe told his team that neither Cory Dueitt nor Steven Register would be available for Tuesday night's game with the second-ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

That meant that the 11th-ranked Auburn Tigers would have to reach deep if they hoped to get a victory at Russ Chandler Stadium. Holding the Yellow Jackets to five runs on the way to a 7-5 victory to improve to 19-5 on the season, the combined pitching efforts of Levale Speigner, Chris Dennis, Lee Carter and Josh Bell were the talk on the field after the game from everyone involved in the win.

"I thought it was good for our club to come out here without Register and without Dueitt or any of those guys throwing," Renfroe said. "That was a nice win. Tonight was a night we were trying to find some other guys to do some things.

"I thought Levale was real good," Renfroe added. "I thought he had good stuff and pitched well. I thought Chris Dennis was real good. Lee Carter was outstanding and then J.B. (Bell) just wanted the ball. He just begged and said, ‘I want the ball, I can do it.' We're trying to give him some innings here or there to get him ready."

Levale Speigner was Auburn's winning pitcher on Tuesday night in Atlanta

Starting and pitching the first three innings, Speigner allowed just three hits and no runs to the potent Yellow Jackets. Dennis also pitched three innings and gave up four runs on six hits while Carter allowed just two hits and no runs in two innings. Bell closed the game and allowed one run on one hit and struck out two. After going 0-4 at the plate with three strikeouts, Bell said that he had to do something to help the team win.

"I wanted it bad," Bell said of pitching in the ninth inning. "I kind of struggled earlier in the game and I just wanted to contribute to the team. I wanted to do my best to contribute to the team. I'm just glad he believed in me enough to put me out there and I'm glad I came through for him."

Auburn picked up right where it left off last Tuesday night against the Yellow Jackets when Clete Thomas doubled to lead off against starter Micah Owings to deep left field. After hitting six two-baggers against Georgia Tech last week and scoring just two runs in a loss to Owings, the Tigers were determined not to let that happen again. Moving to second on a Javon Moran ground ball to the right side, Thomas scored just moments later on a Tug Hulett ground ball to second base. Leading 1-0, Renfroe turned the ball over to Speigner to keep the powerful Yellow Jackets at bay.

"We were a lot better prepared tonight," Hulett said of facing Owings for the second time in a week. "We knew that we could sit on a fastball a little bit and kind of sit on the off-speed stuff. We wanted to make him prove that he could throw it for strikes. This is a great team here (Georgia Tech) and it was huge to get a win."

Showing perhaps his best command of the season, Speigner shut down Georgia Tech after getting into some trouble in the first inning. Allowing two baserunners, the second on an error by Hulett, Speigner got Mike Nickeas to ground out to end the inning and the Yellow Jacket threat. Energized by Speigner's effort on the mound, Auburn exploded in the third to break the game open.

With one out in the inning, Chuck Jeroloman doubled to right field to put the pressure on Owings. The fantastic freshman responded by striking out Thomas on a wicked slider, bringing Moran to the plate. Trying to get inside on the quick hands of Moran, Owings hit Moran in the left shoulder to bring Hulett to the plate. Sitting on a fastball, the sophomore drilled a doubled over the head of Clifton Remole in left field to score both Jeroloman and Thomas to make it 3-0 Tigers.

The inning wasn't over either as Bobby Huddleston strode to the plate hoping to extend Auburn's lead. Staring down a very inviting left field fence, the senior jumped on an Owings pitch and drove it deep onto the Georgia Tech football practice field for a two-run home run. With a five-run lead and Speigner cruising on the mound, Auburn came back to the plate in the fourth looking for more.

Making his second career start as Sean Gamble continues to recover from a strained hamstring, Derek Sain got things going for the Tigers in the fourth with a single to right field off Owings. Following a Scott Schade strikeout, Jeroloman again came through with a clutch hit for the Tigers. Fighting off three full count pitches, he drilled the fourth into the right field corner for a double to score Sain and make it 6-0 Tigers. Done for the day on the mound after throwing 64 pitches, Speigner turned things over to true freshman Chris Dennis and that's when things got interesting.

Nickeas was the first batter for the Yellow Jackets in the fourth and he had perhaps the best at-bat by any Tech batter of the night. Fouling off pitch after pitch, he pushed a single into right field to get a rally started. Owings, who is the designated hitter for Georgia Tech, hit a bloop single into center field to put runners on first and second with nobody out. For the first time since early in the season, Dennis appeared to let nerves get the better of him for just long enough to get the Yellow Jackets back in the game.

Tug Hulett catches a pop up in the misty conditions Tuesday night.

Georgia Tech loaded the bases on Josh Bell's second catcher's interference call in the last two games. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Dennis walked Greene to score Nickeas with the first Yellow Jacket run of the game. Third baseman Jake Hall did his job next when he hit a slow chopper to Schade at third base. With his only play to second, he got the first out of the inning but Owings scored to make it 6-2 Tigers. One more run would score before the inning was done as Eric Patterson flew out to Sain in left field to score Boggs. Leading just 6-3, the Tigers would have a fight on their hands the rest of the way.

Auburn escaped unscathed in the bottom of the sixth as a tiring Dennis fought off a challenge from the Yellow Jackets to keep a three-run lead. Boggs reached on an error by Amonite to lead off the inning. One out later Hall singled to right field and, trying to get to the ball quickly for a throw to third, Thomas overran the ball and allowed Hall to reach second base. With runners on first and second with just one out, Dennis would have to face the top of the Yellow Jacket order.

A speedster with a .276 average, second baseman Eric Patterson was looking for a pitch to get into the outfield. Getting a fastball inside on the hands, Dennis got the sophomore to pop out to Schade at third for the second out of the inning. Facing sophomore power hitter Jeremy Slayden, who two innings earlier flew out to deep center field, Dennis got in on the hands again to force a pop out to Hulett at second for the final out of the inning.

The Tigers extended the lead back to four in the top of the seventh when Moran hit his second home run of the season, a solo shot over the left field wall. Things would get hairy in the bottom of the inning when a strange play started a Georgia Tech inning. Already into his deepest outing of the season, Dennis got leadoff hitter Murton to hit a deep fly ball to center field. Tracking it down, Moran ran into the wall and dropped the ball getting it out of his glove on the way to the ground. The umpires ruled the ball was in play, allowing Murton to advance to third with a triple.

Clifton Remole put an end to Dennis' day when he singled to center field to score Murton. Leading 7-4, Auburn turned to Lee Carter to put out the flame. A ground ball pitcher, he did his job by coaxing Nickeas into a 6-4-3 twin killing to silence the Georgia Tech crowd. Carter put an end to the inning with another ground ball out. Leading 7-4, Auburn had two innings to survive to hold onto the slim lead.

After getting out of the eighth inning still holding a three-run lead, Carter was done for the night and Bell came on to close the game, but things wouldn't be easy. The Yellow Jackets scored a run and had runners on first and second with just one out when Boggs came to the plate. Hitting a ground ball in the hole, he was robbed by Hulett who threw to first for the second out of the inning. The play kept the runners from scoring. With two outs, Greene hit a ground ball to Schade at third to put an end to the threat and give the Tigers the victory.

"This is a big win for our program," Hulett said following the game. "Our goal this year was to win at least every series or go into the last game of the series with a chance to win it. We knew we had to get off to a good start, which we did in the first inning with a run. That got us off to a good start."

Auburn returns to action Friday at 2 p.m. CST when the Tigers face the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington for the first of a three-game series. Saturday's game is scheduled for 1 p.m. CST with Sunday's series finale scheduled for noon.

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