Tigers Come Back To Take Down Dogs

For the seventh time in its last at-bat, Auburn scored the winning runs as they defeated the Georgia Bulldogs on Sunday.

Auburn, Ala.--Clete Thomas had two hits, including a two-run home run, and three RBI, while Steven Register and Chris Dennis combined to allow just three runs as the Auburn Tigers defeated Georgia 4-3 to salvage the final game of a three game series at Plainsman Park.

The victory improves Auburn to 31-21 overall and 11-16 in SEC play, just one game behind Tennessee after the Vols were swept at South Carolina over the weekend.

Coach Steve Renfroe said the win was a huge one for his team heading to Arkansas for the final series of the season.

"You can dissect the last two weeks, but you're in that mode now that you just have to take today and can you get closer?" Renfroe said. "We did that and that's what we have to do. Defensively, we really did some things to help us and I think that comes from the mound. The guys at the plate were saying, ‘We can do this' because we were stopping them."

Chris Dennis

In recent games a lack of quality pitching has cost the Tigers dearly in losses at Florida and at home to both South Carolina and Georgia, but Sunday was a different story as both Register and Dennis were very good in the win. Register gave up six hits and three runs in six innings and struck out seven. Dennis was even better, allowing just two hits in three innings and striking out six. The sophomore said this was a big day for him and the team.

"I was fortunate enough to spot my pitches and Mike Hyntka was doing a good job of moving the ball in and out behind the plate," Dennis said. "I was just determined today to not let them score. When we got the lead it was huge and I was determined that was going to be it. We really needed this win. I just put it on my shoulders to make sure they didn't do anything."

Georgia wasted little time welcoming Register in his second start when Josh Smith tripled down the right field line to open the first inning and Justin Holmes followed with a sharp double to left to score Smith with the game's first run. Auburn's hard throwing junior would settle down after that though as he struck out both Marshall Szabo and Josh Morris before getting a groundout to end the inning.

Much like the Bulldogs have done all weekend, Auburn used the long ball to answer back in the third inning. Scoreless since the opening inning of Friday night's game, the Tigers got some life when Tug Hulett doubled with two outs and nobody on. Thomas would make Lubrano pay as he drilled a pitch deep over the right field wall for a two-run home run that was disputed by the Georgia players and coaching staff. The ball was ruled fair as it slipped just inside the foul pole. The blow gave Auburn the lead at 2-1, but it wouldn't last long.

Clete Thomas

Leading off the top of the fourth, Georgia's Szabo was sitting on a fastball and that's what he got from Register. The lefty pulled the ball over the K Korner in right field for his third home run of the season to tie the game at two apiece.

Both pitchers would settle in after that until Georgia got to Register again in the top of the sixth. In his longest career outing, Register cruised through five innings, but Szabo once again was a thorn in his side with a single to right to open the inning. Instead of his usual long ball, Morris dribbled a roller to Ben Maitland at third base for an infield single.

Following a pop-up to Hyntka at the plate, Register gave the Bulldogs the break they were looking for when he balked both runners up a base with Clint Sammons at the plate. The veteran made him pay with a sharp single to right field that scored Szabo to put Georgia up 3-2.

Auburn missed a golden opportunity in the seventh inning to even the score when Derek Sain tripled with two outs off Lubrano to end his day. Coach David Perno went to the bullpen for Mitchell Boggs and he got the job done, getting Hyntka on a liner to Szabo to end the inning.

Much like they made a habit out of doing early in the season, the Tigers made a late comeback to earn the victory and once again Hulett and Thomas were at the center of the rally. Leading off the bottom of the eighth inning against closer Will Startup, Hulett hit a grounder towards Szabo at second, but the ball bounced over his head into right field for a single. Thomas said when he saw that he knew that something good was going to happen.

"Tug got everything going and that's all I could ask for," Thomas said. "I was definitely feeding off Tug today."

Working the count to full against Startup, Thomas said that he was just looking for a pitch to drive when he got a fastball right down the middle. Driving the ball into the right center gap for a double, Thomas' hit easily scored Hulett from first because he was running on the full count pitch to avoid the double play. With the score tied Chuck Jeroloman put down a sacrifice bunt, but Startup tried to get Thomas going to third. The play was unsuccessful and set the stage for Sean Gamble. The junior hit a high hopper over the pitcher's head that easily scored Thomas for the game winner.

With the game and possibly the season on the line, the Tigers turned the ball over to Dennis and he delivered. After striking out three in the eighth inning to keep Auburn in the game, he came out in the ninth and was spectacular. Facing Georgia's 8, 9 and 1 hitters, Dennis struck out the side to earn his fourth win of the season. The Madison native said that the victory puts his team in position, but the Tigers still have to win the series next weekend in Fayetteville.

Box Score

"We just want to take care of business at Arkansas and whatever happens, happens," Dennis said. "If we're fortunate enough to get in the SEC Tournament then that's what it will be, but our main priority right now is handling what we can do. The stuff that's out of our hands is just out of our hands."

Auburn takes on Mercer Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the final non-conference regular season game this year. It is the final 25-cent hot dog night of the season as well. The Tigers close out the regular season at Arkansas next weekend.

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