Late Rally Lifts Tigers To Victory Over Hofstra

Ben Maitland's two-run triple in the seventh inning was the difference for the Tigers in their victory over Hofstra Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn scored four runs in the seventh inning to get a come-from-behind 6-4 win over Hofstra Saturday afternoon at Plainsman Park. The Tigers trailed 4-2, but used a two-run triple to spark a rally that led to a 6-4 victory. Reliever Steven Register got the victory for the Tigers in relief while starter Cory Dueitt was outstanding, allowing just four hits and two runs in six innings.

The victory improves Auburn's record to 8-1 this season while Hofstra falls to 0-4. Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said the victory would not have been possible without the impressive outing by Dueitt, his first as a starter this season.

"Cory just took the mound and had that aggressiveness and got our guys into a rhythm by being aggressive and working fast and his mound presence," Renfroe said. "I think that helps a club. If you go out there and you're slow and from the day before guys aren't responding because we scored 19 runs. You need somebody to set it and I think he set the tone. We played hard and hit the ball hard, but they made plays. We got behind and got a big blow the next inning. I thought it was a good day."

In Friday night's game Renfroe made some changes in the batting order that worked and the lineup was much the same on Saturday, which proved to be a key to victory. Leadoff man Clete Thomas had two hits and scored two runs while number eight hitter Ben Maitland came up with the big hit of the day, a two-run triple in the seventh inning to put the Tigers back in front. Renfroe said the changes have been good for his team so far this weekend.

"I like him there (Maitland at the bottom of the order)," Renfroe said. "I think he just gives us a lot there because before we were bunched with runners. Clete was behind guys that clogged him up and we're trying to free him up. It frees Ben up to do some things. He can bunt it and hit it and right there he drove the ball pretty good. If we can get Karl (Amonite) back it really gives us a balanced lineup and that's what we're trying to get to."

Cory Dueitt had Auburn's first quality start on the mound since the opening weekend of play.

Early on the game looked as if it was going to be a pitcher's duel between Dueitt and Hofstra starter Charlie Frago. Dueitt held the Pride hitless through the first four innings and allowed his teammates to get off to a solid start with runs in the first and fourth innings. Frago wasn't much worse as he kept the Auburn hitters off balance after a small outburst in the first. Thomas led off the game with a double to center field and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by right fielder Ben Sprague. Second baseman Tug Hulett followed with a single to left and Auburn had the early lead.

The Tigers added to the lead in the fourth when Sean Gamble singled with one out to get the inning going. One out later Josh Sullivan doubled down the left field line to drive home Gamble and make it 2-0 Auburn. Sullivan wasn't finished making noise though as he came up with the defensive play of the game in the top of the fifth.

Third baseman J.P. Wechter from Hofstra led off the inning with a single through the right side off Dueitt on an 0-2 pitch. Second baseman Ricky Caputo then doubled to the gap in right-center to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Catcher Michael Walsh was up next and he drilled a liner just under the glove of Josh Bell at first base to score Wechter and put runners on the corners. Dueitt would bear down though as he struck out back-to-back batters to bring Josh Stewart to the plate. Working the count full, Dueitt threw a breaking ball in the dirt that rolled away from Sullivan for ball four. Caputo thought he would take a chance and break for home, but Sullivan had other ideas as he raced back to the plate and dove in for the tag and out three. The play preserved Auburn's lead at 2-1 and drew high fives from Sullivan's teammates as he entered the dugout following the play.

Josh Sullivan makes the defensive play of the game for the Tigers.

Dueitt would last one batter into the seventh inning before being relieved by John Madden after a leadoff single to Wechter. Dueitt left the game after striking out a career-high eight batters and Madden would follow the trend, striking out the next two hitters he faced before giving way to Register to finish the inning.

"I felt good," Dueitt said. "It was the first time that I really had to extend in a game. I think I threw 85 pitches or something like that. I was trying to get through the seventh, but I got to a point in the game where I wanted to get to. We brought in the bullpen. Something happens and we had a guy out of position I guess, but we made plays when we had to and our hitters came back and got a win. Games like that we have to win, so it was good for us."

The plan didn't work as expected as a walk to pinch hitter Mackie Root opened the floodgates for Hofstra. Left fielder Eric Balson followed with a walk of his own of Register to load the bases for Stewart and once again Stewart was in the center of the action, this time drilling a double to left center that cleared a shallow-playing Gamble and cleaned the bases giving Hofstra the 4-2 lead.

Instead of panicking Auburn did what it does best, come from behind. Chuck Jeroloman led off the bottom of the seventh with a single into right field. Sullivan then got his second hit of the day, a slow roller to third that Wechter threw away at first, allowing the runners to move up to second and third with nobody out. That brought Maitland to the plate. Looking to get the ball in play, he drilled one deep into center field that Stewart couldn't handle. Racing around second Maitland headed for third with both Jeroloman and Sullivan safely home. The throw from Josh Stern was off the mark at third and Maitland hopped up and raced home with the eventual game-winning run.

"There were runners on second and third and I choked up trying to put the ball in play," Maitland said. "Either hit a hard ground ball or hit it deep depending on where the pitch was and what I could do with it. I guess I just choked up and saw my pitch. I was fortunate enough that it got over his head."

Auburn added an insurance run later in the inning when Thomas singled to start another rally. He quickly stole second before a Sprague walk. The two then completed a double steal that set up a walking situation to Hulett to load the bases. Bell came through on a fortunate play for the Tigers as he dribbled one in front of the plate to force Walsh out from behind the plate to make the play at first. It allowed Thomas to score though and gave the Tigers a 6-4 advantage that Register made stand up. The junior retired the last seven hitters in order to pick up his third win of the season.

Box Score

The Tigers look for the sweep on Sunday when freshman Mike Felix takes the mound for the Tigers against Hofstra. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:30.


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