Senior catcher Bobby Huddleston smashed two home runs and four RBI for Auburn (34-15, 15-10), but Jon Zeringue answered back with two home runs of his own as LSU (34-16-1, 17-7-1) opened up its lead to 2 ½ games over Auburn with just five conference games remaining.
LSU starter Justin Meier got the win Friday night. The freshman gave up just seven hits and four runs to move his record to 6-2 on the year. Auburn's Arnold Hughey got the loss despite a gutsy performance. With a fierce wind blowing out in a hitter's ballpark, Hughey gave up six runs on nine hits, but only two runs after the first inning, to keep Auburn within striking distance. Reliever Cory Dueitt pitched one inning for Auburn, giving up one walk.
"I thought it was a heck of a baseball game," Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said following Friday's game. "I thought Arnie pitched really well. They got two big ones. There were a couple where they just got it up and it went out. To a great club you have to make quality pitches or they'll hurt you. We fought hard and had a chance. We just didn't get it done tonight.
"I thought he was great," Renfroe added of Hughey. "They had four bloop hits and two wind blown home runs that he beat the guys on. I know they got one good and the other one I don't think it out of our park. We just said, ‘Hey, that's what's going to happen today and don't worry about it.' I thought Arnie was really good against a great hitting team."
Bobby Huddleston hits one of his two home runs on the night.
Trailing 6-4 heading to the top of the ninth, Auburn had one shot against one of the top relievers in the Southeastern Conference. Brash, confident and cocky, junior college transfer Billy Sadler took the mound looking for the save. Third baseman Scott Schade led off the ninth by earning a walk, bringing pinch-hitter Derek Sain to the plate. Hitting for shortstop Chuck Jeroloman, Sain lined a single into right field to bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate in Sean Gamble.
Trying to bunt the runners over before getting two strikes, Gamble struck out much to the delight of Sadler, who gave a victorious fist pump.
That brought Javon Moran to the plate. Struggling since his single in the first inning, Moran worked the count before putting a ground ball into play that Sadler caught and tagged the speedy runner just outside the first base line.
A Louisiana native, Tug Hulett worked a walk from Sadler to load the bases with Huddleston up next. In the eighth Sadler and Huddleston had a slight confrontation following a strikeout when Sadler stared down Huddleston going to the dugout. This time it didn't take long to sort out the details as Huddleston was hit by the first pitch to force across Schade and make it 6-5 LSU with Karl Amonite coming to the plate.
Arnold Hughey gave Auburn a chance to win the game late with his solid outing.
Unfortunately for Auburn, that's when the Al Davis show began. Calling balls and strikes behind the plate, Davis called strike two on Amonite on a pitch that was high and outside. Inconsistent all night for both teams, it caught up with the Tigers last in the ninth as he rung up Amonite on a low and outside fastball to end the game. Disgusted with losing a game it had several opportunities to win, Auburn is left with two chances to earn a series win against LSU.
The fireworks started early as both teams got off to a hot start on a sultry Friday night at Alex Box Stadium. In the top of the first Gamble led off with a shot into left-center field that Ryan Patterson dove for and made a highlight reel catch for the first out of the game. Moran was up next and he ripped a single to left field to bring Hulett to the plate. Off with the second pitch, Moran was forced back to the bag on a fly ball to right field for the second out of the inning.
With the wind blowing out forcefully to left field, Huddleston jumped on a Meier pitch and hit it well over the stands in left-center field. The ball traveled well over 400 feet and took the home crowd out of the game momentarily.
It didn't take long for the crowd to get into the game in the bottom of the first when Patterson hit a bloop single to center field with one out to bring Aaron Hill to the plate. Following a similar pattern, Hill dinked a single into right field. One of the league's top power hitters, Clay Harris bombed a double to right-center that scored both runners to tie the game.
One out later the tie was broken when Zeringue lifted a fly ball into left that carried just over the outstretched glove of Gamble for a home run. Leading 4-2, LSU put the ball in the hands of Meier to take them home and he did just that.
Pitching seven innings, allowing four runs on seven hits, Meier did just enough to get the win, but not before Auburn put a scare into the crowd of 8,512, the largest of the season. Trailing by three following Zeringue's second home run of the night, Huddleston struck again with a long home run just inside the foul pole in left field to lead off the fourth inning. Not to be outdone, freshman Josh Bell came to the plate two batters later and followed suit with a solo shot over the stands in left. Tied at four, Auburn appeared to have the momentum, but it wouldn't last.
Pitching beautifully since his rough first inning, Hughey went into the seventh with the game still tied. After getting the first two hitters of the inning on a strikeout and ground ball, Patterson complimented his defense with some offense as he homered over the left field wall to give LSU the lead 6-4 and set the stage for a dramatic finish to game one of the series.
"I thought I came back well tonight," Hughey said. "They hit some fly balls that I definitely didn't think would be anywhere close to out and the wind just carried them out. I guess this is a pretty easy field to hit home runs it, the wind just carries them out. I stayed in there and batted I think and got through it. I was just hopeful we could get some runs."
Junior Colby Paxton will take the mound for the Tigers in game two against LSU. The first pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. CDT and will not be televised except in Louisiana.