Tigers Can't Handle Kentucky's Ace

Auburn's baseball winning streak was snapped on Friday night in the SEC opener vs. the Kentucky Wildcats.

Auburn, Ala.--Dominating for eight innings, Kentucky pitcher Joseph Blanton hung tough in the ninth to shut down an Auburn rally as his Wildcats defeated Auburn 3-1 on Friday night at Plainsman Park.

In the SEC opener for both baseball teams, Blanton kept the Tigers off the scoreboard for eight innings with a 92 miles per hour fastball, pinpoint control and a nasty breaking pitch.

However, in the ninth inning the Tigers made a serious threat, scoring a run and putting the potential tying runners on base before the right-hander got out of the jam on his 149th and final pitch of the night.

Joseph Blanton is on the mound for UK while Auburn's Javon Moran takes a lead at first base.

"Without a doubt, that was the best pitcher we have seen this year," said Auburn coach Steve Renfroe, whose team falls to 15-5 overall as its eight-game winning streak bit the dust. UK improved its record to 10-8.

"He lived up to everything we heard," Renfroe added. "He commanded both sides of the plate and when he wanted to go extra (more speed), it looked like he got a little extra. He was real good. He walked one guy and doesn't give you anything. With that kind of stuff, you better have a great hitting club to score runs on him. To our credit, we got there at the end and had a chance to win it."

The Tigers gave up single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings before finally getting on the scoreboard in the bottom of the ninth.

Brian Huddleston gave the crowd of 3,233 on a warm night some hope of a ninth inning comeback when he led off the inning with a double to right field. Mike Mueller then raised the stakes with a single to right field putting runners on the corners with nobody out.

The next batter, Scott Schade, hit a ball well to deep right field for a sacrifice fly to cut the gap to 3-1. Matt Grooms then got a good rip at Blanton, but hit a Major League popup into shallow left field that the shortstop nearly bobbled before catching for the second out. Sean Gamble was the last hope and he hit a weak fly ball to short left to end the game.

Auburn starter Levale Speigner pitched solidly, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing six hits, three runs and striking out five Wildcats with three walks. Only two of the runs were earned. The bullpen did the job with Lee Carter pitching a scoreless inning and Arnold Hughey not allowing a run in 1 1/3 innings.

The Tiger bullpen was strong as Arnold Hughey helped keep Auburn in striking range.

"Levale battled them tonight," Renfroe said. "I think Levale will tell you it wasn't his best stuff. They get three runs, but one of those was because of defense. Other than that, he was solid. I don't think he had great stuff, but he gave us a chance to win against a great pitcher."

Kentucky's first run was set up when leadoff hitter, shortstop Russ Rutherford, was hit by a pitch to start the fourth inning. He advanced to second on a single by Caleb Newton, reached third on a fielder's choice and scored on a single by Gordon Tyler.

In the fifth inning, Spencer Preston doubled with one out, advanced to third on a single by Cory Hahn and scored on a sacrifice fly.

In the sixth inning, Stewart led off the inning with a single and stole second base. He advanced to third on a single by Morris and scored on a throwing error by third baseman Josh Todd.

Except for the second when Mueller and Grooms singled, Auburn did not have another hit until the seventh inning.

The Tigers and Wildcats will meet at 3 p.m. on Saturday with 2-0 Eric Brandon, who has a 2.10 earned run average, pitching for the Tigers vs. lefty Craig Snipp, who is 1-0 with a 3.63 earned run average.

Box Score

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories