Never Say Die Tigers Pull Out Extra Inning Win

Auburn collected just six hits in 13 innings Friday night, but it was good enough to earn a dramatic 4-3 win over Georgia.

Athens, Ga.--Freshman Chris Dennis got Georgia's Justin Holmes to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 13th inning to preserve a 4-3 Auburn victory Friday night in the first of three games between the Tigers and the Bulldogs. Junior Javon Moran singled home Scott Schade in the top of the inning for his third two-out hit of the game to give the Tigers the lead they would not relinquish.

Dennis gave up just two hits and no runs in two innings while striking out three Bulldog batters. Moran had three of Auburn's six hits on the night with Schade adding two more. Auburn batters struck out 16 times against Georgia pitching but somehow came away with the win.

Chris Dennis

Tied at three heading to the top of the 13th, Schade got things going for the Tigers with a single to give a stagnant Auburn offense some much needed life. One out later Sean Gamble drew a walk to bring Moran to the plate with two outs. Already clutch on the night with two run scoring hits with two outs, Moran ripped an inside curveball into left field to score Schade and give the Tigers the lead once again. That would set the stage for Dennis' heroics.

Back-to-back doubles to lead off the inning for the Bulldogs put the freshman in a deep hole to begin the inning. Following a strikeout of Clint Sammons, Dennis issued an intentional walk to pinch hitter Jasha Balcom to load the bases and put the force into effect. The strategy would pay dividends as Holmes, who had two hits on the night, drilled a ground ball to Tug Hulett at second base. Taking the ball, he flipped to Chuck Jeroloman at second and the sophomore threw to Kyle Baum at first to preserve the win.

With the game tied in extra innings, Auburn took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 11th inning thanks to a clutch hit by Moran. Schade led off in the inning by striking out off Georgia reliever Will Startup, but the ball got by the Georgia catcher to allow him to reach first base. Jeroloman did his thing next by sacrificing Schade to second with a perfect bunt down the first base line. Following a Sean Gamble fly out to short left, Moran singled up the middle to score Schade and seemingly put this game away. But David Coffey had other ideas. In for Steven Register, Levale Speigner grooved a changeup that Coffey bombed over the right field wall for a home run to tie the game. That's how things would remain until Georgia appeared to wrap the game up in the bottom of the 12th when they loaded the bases with nobody out off Speigner.

Javon Moran

That's when Dennis came through with the clutch performance of the night. Facing the number three, four and five hitters in the Georgia order, the freshman struck out both Lee Mitchell and David Coffey to bring John Armitage to the plate. Working ahead in the count, he got Armitage to fly out the Moran in center field to preserve the tie game going to the 13th inning.

Pitching dominated for much of Friday's game with Eric Brandon and Sean Ruthven shutting down everyone they faced. That changed for Auburn in the third as Clete Thomas walked to start the inning and Scott Schade executed a hit-and-run to perfection, slicing a single through the left side to push Thomas around to third base. Chuck Jeroloman was up next and he hit a liner to Marshall Szabo at second base that he snared before losing the ball when he fell to the ground. Freezing on the play, Schade was thrown out at second base and Thomas remained at third with just one out.

In the leadoff spot after returning from a hamstring injury, Gamble lifted a fly ball to left field to easily score Thomas from third. Advancing to second on a wild pitch, Jeroloman scored just moments later when Moran doubled to right center field. Leading 2-0 with Brandon cruising on the mound, things looked good for the Tigers.

A leadoff single by Smith for the Bulldogs was all for nothing as Brandon escaped with no damage done heading to the fourth. Auburn remained mystified from the third inning on by Ruthven, as they didn't get another hit off the crafty right hander until an infield single by Thomas in the eighth inning. The Bulldogs finally got to Brandon in the fourth with one run, but it was in the fifth that the junior would work some magic.

Armitage led off the inning with a single to center field and he moved to second one out later when Smith reached on a catcher's interference by Josh Bell. A Sammons walked loaded the bases with just one out, but back to back pop outs by the Bulldogs brought the rally to an end and kept the Tigers in the lead. The drama would be repeated in the seventh as McClain doubled off reliever Cory Dueitt on a 0-2 pitch to get the inning off to a great start for Georgia. Following a sacrifice bunt, Sammons came to the plate trying to put the ball in play. Auburn knew that and brought the infield in. That would be huge as Sammons hit a high hopper in the hole between first and second. Catching the ball on the run, Hulett ran to the first base bag while keeping McClain close at third. Getting the out, Dueitt induced pinch hitter Ryan Pittmon to ground out to Hulett to end the inning.

With Auburn still struggling at the plate, the Bulldogs would take advantage in the eighth inning off closer Steven Register. Leadoff hitter Holmes singled to center field to reach base and took off for second base on the first pitch to Szabo. Making a short throw to second, Bell was charged with an error as Holmes reached third base with nobody out. Following another groundout to Hulett to hold the runner at third, the Bulldogs got a fly ball by Mitchell on yet another 0-2 pitch to score Holmes with the tying run. The game would go on deep into the night before the Tigers pulled out the win.

Brandon allowed just four hits and one run in six innings pitched on Friday while Dueitt pitched one scoreless inning of relief. Register pitched three innings and gave up one run on two hits. Speigner gave up four hits and one run in one inning.

Auburn will send sophomore Arnold Hughey to the mound looking for the series win on Saturday. Hughey is 3-1 with a 3.73 ERA this season. The game is scheduled to begin a 1 p.m. CST.

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