Almost perfect through eight innings, allowing just three walks, Hochevar gave up the only hit of the game to Auburn in the ninth inning as the Tigers mounted a late rally that came up short. Throwing 127 pitches, Hochevar kept Auburn down by using a variety of pitches and controlling all of them perfectly. He retired 18-straight batters during one stretch and Auburn coach Tommy Slater said he was just better than the Tigers on this night.
"Hochevar was outstanding," Slater said. "I was very proud of our effort. He was 93-94 MPH and he had four pitches going. A change-up to our lefties and a two-seamer to our lefties, a curveball and a slider. You could see why he's going to be a first round pick.
"I was proud of our approach, he was just better than us tonight. That being said, in the ninth inning, I couldn't be prouder of our effort. Our guys were right there. We got the guy we wanted at the plate and he hit a bolt. We were tough and kept ourselves in it. It was a good pitching performance by both Hughey and Madden. There is going to be games when big-time pitchers do that kind of thing to you, but what I'm proud about is our guys hung in the game and gave us a chance to win."
Despite the dominating performance by Hochevar, the Tigers were still in the game late thanks to the pitching of Arnold Hughey and reliever John Madden. In his longest outing of the season Hughey gave up just six hits and two runs. Madden gave up two runs in one and one/thirds innings of scoreless relief.
Auburn managed to hang around and had a shot to tie or even win the game in the ninth inning as Hochevar began to show signs of tiring with a 2-0 lead. Leading off the ninth, Tyler Johnstone was hit by a pitch to give the Tigers and some brave fans a reason to cheer. The cheers got even louder when center fielder Bruce Edwards singled to right field for the only Auburn hit of the night. Clete Thomas would follow with a walk to load the bases and bring Karl Amonite to the plate.
You could not script a better scenario for the Tigers as their leading hitter and RBI man came to the plate to face Hochevar. Getting behind 1-2 in the count, Amonite battled tooth and nail with Hochevar for five pitches. On one pitch he narrowly missed a double when he pulled one foul just outside the first base bag. Getting a fastball, Amonite ripped a liner into right field that Eli Iorg broke one beautifully to run down for the first out of the inning. The fly ball scored Johnstone from third, but Thomas was caught off first base for a double play. That all but ended Auburn's threat as Josh Bell struck out to end the game.
Tennessee's only offensive outburst came in the fourth inning as three consecutive hits off Hughey gave the Vols their only two runs. Josh Alley led off the inning with a single and shortstop Eric King followed by grounding out to Johnstone and moving Alley to second. Iorg then doubled to left field to score Alley and freshman J.P. Arencibia added a double of his own to score Iorg and make it 2-0 Vols. Hochevar made the lead stand up for his fifth victory of the season. Hughey falls to 2-2 on the year.
Saturday will be a big day on the Auburn campus as the annual A-Day football game takes place at 1 p.m. with baseball following at 4. The Tigers will send junior Josh Sullivan to the mound against Tennessee's Sean Watson. Sullivan, the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week, is 3-1 with a 2.09 ERA this season. Watson enters with a 4-1 mark and an earned run average of 2.90.