Hulett's Bat Helps Gamble Lead Tigers To Victory

Auburn's victory keeps the Tigers within one-half game of division leading LSU.

Auburn, Ala.--Sean Gamble had been struggling at the plate entering Sunday's series finale with the 20th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks (30-8, 11-7). Dropped from first to eighth in the batting order, Gamble decided to make some changes at the plate and one paid off big-time to help the fifth-ranked Auburn Tigers (31-10, 12-6) to a 5-2 win and avoid the first sweep at home since 2001.

With the baseball game tied at two in the bottom of the seventh inning, Auburn was looking for something good to happen and it came in the form of leading hitter Tug Hulett. Well, almost.

First baseman Karl Amonite led off the inning with a walk off of Arkansas starter Charley Boyce. That was the end of Boyce's day as reliever Boyd Goodner came on for the Hogs. That would prove to be a bad choice as one out later he hit Scott Schade to put runners on first and second with just one out to bring Gamble to the plate.

Trying to find a bat that would bring him some good fortune, Gamble had already tried right fielder Clete Thomas' bat, but to no avail as he had gone 0-2. That's when the sophomore left fielder decided to go right to the top for Hulett's bat. Leading the team in hitting with an average of .404, Hulett had some good vibes running through his Louisville Slugger TPX and Gamble wanted to see if it would work for him. It did in a big way as he ripped a double down the right field line to score both Amonite and Schade to give the Tigers a 4-2 lead. Auburn would add an insurance run in the ninth when Javon Moran scored from third on a fielder's choice.

Steven Register closed the game in the ninth inning after coming on in the seventh and earned his third victory of the season as the Tigers gained a big win to salvage a game in the series and stay within striking distance of first place in the Western Division.

Sean Gamble was the hero in Auburn's Sunday win.

"They were throwing all fastballs to me and all weekend when they had two strikes on people they liked to come in," Gamble said. "They came in on one of them and it was a ball. I figured he would come back in and I tried to get my hands inside. I did and was able to pull it down the line.

"I had been struggling and Tug had been hitting so I just switched to Tug's bat for my last at-bat," Gamble added. "It paid off today."

Helping in a huge way in the victory, but getting nothing to show for it was starter Colby Paxton. Pitching six innings, giving up seven hits and two runs while striking out two, Paxton gave the Tigers just what they needed from the starting pitching. His play allowed Coach Steve Renfroe to use the bullpen effectively down the stretch to get a huge win.

Colby Paxton

"I can't even describe how big this win is because what's going on around the league has worked in our favor," Paxton said. "As bad as we've played the last two days it has worked in our favor with everybody else losing. Today was huge to keep us in the hunt. It was a very big game for us."

"It was one of those deals where I struggled a little bit early," Paxton added. "I don't know what it was towards the end of the game, but I got stronger and felt better."

Auburn got on the board first in the bottom of the third inning. Increasing his hitting streak in conference play to 15 games, Schade led off with an infield single. Moving to second on a hit-and-run groundout by Gamble, Schade scored just moments later when shortstop Chuck Jeroloman singled up the middle. Leading 1-0, the Tigers would escape the big inning in the fourth by the Razorbacks, the big inning that haunted Auburn all weekend.

Steven Register blows one by an Arkansas batter in the ninth inning.

With one out, Brady Toops singled to center field to bring up Ryan Fox. The powerful senior ripped a single into left field to start the Hog machine once again. Scott Bridges singled to right field to load the bases with Scott Hode coming to the plate. Just like he's done all series, Hode did his job with a fly ball to Thomas in right field that scored Toops with Arkansas' first run. Paxton struck out Nick Pitts to end the inning with the game tied at one.

The Tigers missed a chance at a big inning in the bottom of the fourth off Boyce. With one out, Hulett singled to center field to continue his hot hitting. After a Bobby Huddleston pop out to first base, Amonite singled to center to bring Josh Bell up with a chance to give the Tigers the lead once again. Jumping on an inside fastball, Bell lined a double just inside the left field line that scored Hulett easily and Amonite turned third base driving for home. Making a perfect relay from the corner, the Hogs threw to the plate where Toops blocked the dish and tagged Amonite for the final out, although it appeared Amonite got his foot on the plate before Toops tagged him on the back. That caused Renfroe to come out and argue a call for the second time this weekend, the first time that has happened in his three-years at Auburn.

Leading 2-1, Paxton cruised through the next two innings before the Hogs would end his day in the top of the seventh. Bridges led off the inning with a bunt single executed perfectly down the third base line. Expecting a bunt, Schade was drawn in at third and Hode drilled a double down the line off reliever Cory Dueitt to send Bridges to third with nobody out. Pitts scored Bridges on a groundout to Schade to tie the game once again, this time at two. Kirk McConnell flew out deeply to Thomas in right field for the second out of the inning.

After Andrew Wishy reached on a walk, Auburn called for Register to close the game. He did his work in the seventh by striking out Fox to end the inning and cruised through the eighth and ninth to keep Auburn in good shape with a tough trip to Vanderbilt next weekend.

"This win was huge," Register said. "With the way we played this weekend we needed to get one out of here. The way the rest of the SEC weekends are going, for us to maybe even move up after this weekend is pretty big."

Auburn will shake things up on the mound next weekend with Arnold Hughey moving up to Friday night, Paxton bumped to Saturday's start and Dueitt will get his third start of the season on Sunday. His first two starts of the season were against Samford and Troy State.

Former starter Eric Brandon will move to the bullpen while Josh Sullivan will move into the long relief role for the Tigers.

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