Tigers Make Lead Stand Up Against Arkansas

Auburn is hoping one more win over the Hogs will be enough to earn a postseason berth.

Fayetteville, Ark.--Auburn's SEC Tournament hopes were dashed on Saturday night with a Tennessee victory over Florida, but the Tigers still have hopes for the postseason and they kept them alive with a 7-4 win over Arkansas in game two of the series. Steven Register and Chris Dennis held onto an Auburn lead on the mound while Chuck Jeroloman had two big doubles and four RBI on the night.

"Steven stepped up and Chris Dennis did obviously," Coach Steve Renfroe said. "Everybody had big hits and plays like Chuck and Tug (Hulett). Sean (Gamble) played hurt most of the game with a pulled hamstring. It was a great, great battle in an atmosphere that's hard to win it. You could feel the momentum. They have so much going on here, but Reggie came out and stuffed it and then Dennis put a blanket on it."

It was an unusual game for the Tigers and Renfroe as the coach wasn't around to see the final three innings. After yet another questionable call behind the plate on a night that wasn't the best for the umpire, Renfroe decided he'd had enough and was tossed from the game. "I felt like it was time," Renfroe said. "I thought Steven had struck out the guy there and the guy before. There are certain times to defend your guys and that was one of them."

Gamble led the way for the Tigers at the plate with three hits while Jeroloman, Clete Thomas and Josh Bell each had two hits. Register allowed nine hits and four runs in six innings while striking out three Arkansas hitters. Dennis allowed just one hit in three innings with three strikeouts.

Arkansas got on the board first when left fielder Jake Dugger led off the bottom of the first with a single. The speedster quickly stole second to get into scoring position, but Register got Casey Rowlett and Clay Goodwin out to bring Tiger killer Scott Hode to the plate. The shortstop singled sharply to left and Gamble came up with the ball cleanly, but his throw was up the line and Dugger scored easily to make it 1-0 Hogs.

Auburn got to Arkansas starter Charley Boyce in the second thanks to the middle of the Tiger batting order. Bell singled up the middle to get things going and Gamble followed with a single of his own to bring Jeroloman to the plate. The shortstop ripped a double to left center that scored both runs to give the Tigers the lead. Auburn wasn't done though as later in the inning Mike Hyntka singled to center that scored Jeroloman. Leading 3-1 the Tigers went looking for more just one inning later.

Chuck Jeroloman

Leading off the third right fielder J.T. Williamson struck out, but reached first on a wild pitch to get things going for the Tigers. Thomas then drew a walk to bring Bell to the plate. Hitting a ground ball back to Boyce, Bell reached first when the pitcher turned to throw to second. Luckily for the Tigers the throw was off the mark and Williamson scored to give Auburn a three-run lead.

That would be the end of the day for Boyce as Trey Holloway came on. Gamble greeted the reliever rudely with a single that scored Thomas, but that's all the Tigers would get as Jeroloman flew out to center field and Derek Sain grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Register had been very good through the first three innings, allowing four hits but just one run. The Razorbacks finally got to Auburn's ace in the fourth when Danny Hamblin singled with one out to start a Hog rally. Following a Brady Toops fly out, second baseman Scott Bridges connected on a shot that cleared the left field wall. Now leading 5-3 Auburn would attempt to hold off the Hogs the rest of the way.

That wouldn't be easy as Bridges led off the sixth with a bunt single and stole second with Stephen Robison at the plate. Some fireworks then went off in Baum Stadium as Renfroe went out to argue a call and was quickly thrown from the game. It was the first time Renfroe has been tossed from a game as Auburn's Head Coach. The move seemed to bring some life to the Tigers, but first Arkansas would get back on the scoreboard.

Working the count full, Robison drilled a double just off the glove of Thomas in center field. The hit didn't allow Bridges to score though, but he crossed the plate on a groundout to cut Auburn's lead to just one. One out later a walk to Goodwin brought Hode up in a key spot. Unlike much of the weekend this time Auburn got the better of the match-up as Register struck out the shortstop to end the inning and the Arkansas threat.

Fired up the Tigers got some insurance runs in the seventh. Leading off the inning, Thomas doubled off the first base bag and Bell followed with a single to center to put runners on the corners. With Gamble at the plate Thomas committed the cardinal sin of baseball when he was picked off the bag for the first out of the inning. It proved to be a big play as Gamble singled to right, but was taken out in favor of Bruce Edwards because of a pulled leg muscle. Boyd Goodner came on for the Razorbacks, but Jeroloman greeted him immediately with a long double to center field. The hit scored both Auburn runs and gave the Tigers a 7-4 lead.

That's all they would need as Dennis came on to shut the door for Auburn and company. The newfound closer now that Register is in the starting rotation, Dennis dominated the Hogs in the last three innings to give the Tigers the victory.

Box Score

Auburn's postseason hopes lie in one game on Sunday as a victory over Arkansas would likely be enough to get the Tigers an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament with 13 conference victories and a RPI rating in the 20's. Just last season Florida earned a bid with a 13-16-1 SEC record and a 32 RPI rating. With the win Saturday night Auburn now has 15 wins over ranked opponents this season.

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