Big First Inning Dooms Tigers

Georgia used a big first inning against Auburn to streak to its 11th-straight SEC win Friday night.

Auburn, Ala.-–Georgia scored six runs in the first inning and Sean Ruthven made that stand up as the Bulldogs won for the 11th-straight time in SEC play with an 11-2 win over Auburn Friday night at Plainsman Park. Auburn starter Josh Bell gave up six runs on four hits in the first to fall to 3-3 on the season while Ruthven earned the win to improve to 6-1 on the season. Coach Steve Renfroe said the first inning was a huge mountain for his team to try to overcome in the first game of the series.

"When you give up six runs you don't even give your guys a chance," Renfroe said. "You fight back and are right there, but Tug (Hulett) hit a ball right at the first baseman and you thought you had a shot there. We felt like we were in it. He (Bell) battled and John Madden was real good."

The loss drops Auburn to 30-20 overall and 10-15 in SEC play. The Tigers are now just 4-9 in home SEC games this season. Fortunately they remain in the hunt for a berth in the SEC Tournament thanks to Tennessee's 2-1 loss at South Carolina. The Vols fall to 12-13 in league play. Georgia moved into a tie with Florida for the lead in the SEC East at 16-9 and are 34-16 overall.

While Georgia's offense was the story early, the difference in the game was the pitching of Ruthven. The son of former Major League pitcher Dick Ruthven, Sean allowed just five hits in six and one/third innings while striking out three. Despite walking five, Ruthven gave up just two runs and earned the respect of Renfroe and his team.

"He can really pitch," Renfroe said. "He's throwing change-ups in any count, breaking balls in any count. He's a great college pitcher. You have to keep it a game because he can pitch in any count. You have to work very, very hard on him. When you make it easy for him to relax and take the pressure off him that's tough to overcome. He's really good. As far as a pitcher he's probably as good of a pitcher as we've seen. He has a super idea of what to do."

Seniors Cory Dueitt, Colby Paxton and Jim Miksis were honored on Senior Night before Friday night's game.

The hot Bulldogs wasted little time getting over their loss to Georgia Tech on Wednesday night with an explosive first inning that was the difference in Friday's game. Leading off, third baseman Josh Smith doubled. That was just the beginning though as back-to-back singles by Justin Holmes and Marshall Szabo gave Georgia the early 1-0 lead and put the pressure on Bell.

It showed as walks to both Josh Morris and Joey Side made it 2-0 Georgia with still nobody out. Bell was able to coax a pair of fly ball outs the next two hitters and the Bulldogs built the lead to 3-0, but with two outs. That's when Felmy did his damage. A .279 hitter this season with five home runs, Felmy drilled a pitch deep over the K Korner in right field for a three-run shot that gave Georgia an early 6-0 lead. That's all Ruthven would need on this night, but Auburn put a scare into him in the first.

Leading off Auburn's night, Tug Hulett singled off the glove of Szabo at second base. The hit extended Hulett's hitting streak to 12 games and put Auburn in business. The Tigers' leading hitter Clete Thomas then drove Hulett home with a triple into the right center gap. Following a short fly out by Chuck Jeroloman, Sean Gamble walked to bring Bell to the plate. Helping his cause, Bell flew out to right field to score Thomas and cut the lead to four.

Unfortunately for the Tigers that's as close as they would come because of a fine pitching performance by Ruthven. Settling down, Ruthven allowed Auburn just five hits through six innings, but a loss of control gave the Tigers some life in the seventh and put an end to his night.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh and cruising on the mound, Ruthven walked number nine hitter J.T. Williamson and Hulett to bring Thomas to the plate. That was all Coach David Perno needed to see as he went to the bullpen for closer Will Startup. Dominating this season, Startup snared a line drive off the bat of Thomas and threw to first for a double play to end the inning.

That would be the last hurrah for the Tigers as Startup shut down the bats to close the game, allowing just one hit in two and two/thirds innings to earn his seventh save. The Bulldogs got some insurance of reliever Cory Dueitt in the eighth and ninth with a two-run double by Smith the big blow in the eighth and a three-run shot by Clint Sammons in the ninth.

Box Score

Game two of the series takes place at 3 p.m. Saturday with Arnold Hughey on the mound for the Tigers against Michael Hyle for the Bulldogs. Hughey is 6-3 with a 4.32 ERA while Hyle is 5-1 and an earned run average of 3.00. The game can be seen live on Fox SportsNet South. Renfroe said it's as big as any game this season for his team.

"It builds," Renfroe said. "The thing about Chuck, Tug, Clete and Sean is that they've been there and done it. They're trying as hard as they can. I think things build and that's the hard thing because when you get down there's not many chances left. It gets tough on them, but I think they'll come ready to play."

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