Pratt's Blast Keys Tiger Victory

Trailing 3-1, <b>Trent Pratt's</b> three-run home run keyed a five-run outburst in the top of the sixth inning for the 17th-ranked Auburn Tigers (21-6, 4-2) as they went on to an 8-3 win over the 7th-ranked Florida Gators (22-6, 4-3) Friday night in the first game of a three-game series.

Gainesville, Fla.--Bobby Huddleston had four hits and Levale Speigner pitched seven and two/thirds innings to pick up his sixth win of the season as Auburn handed Florida just their third loss of the season at home.

Trent Pratt

With Speigner pitching his usual solid game on the mound, Auburn was hoping for some life offensively as they went to the top of the sixth inning. Leading off the inning, Huddleston came through as he drove one deep off the center field wall for a double to set the tone. Scott Schade followed with a ground ball to the right side that moved Huddleston to third. In as a defensive replacement in the outfield, Sean Gamble followed with a high hopper to the pitcher that he was able to beat out for an infield single. That proved to be big as Pratt followed by hitting an inside fastball over the left field wall for a three-run home run to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead. True freshman Tug Hulett was up next and he worked the count and drew a walk to give Auburn another baserunner. One out later Javon Moran drilled one to the right side that Ryan Shealy couldn't handle, putting runners on first and second with two outs.

Freshman Doug Vines would come through for the Tigers in the clutch as he singled sharply to center field to score Hulett from second and make the score 5-3. With the pressure on, Jonathan Schuerholz and Huddleston earned back-to-back walks to push Moran across with the final run of the inning making it 6-3 Tigers.

Staked to a lead Speigner went out and shut down the Gators from that point forward. With one out in the sixth he allowed Aaron Sobieraj to single bringing clean-up man Mario Garsa to the plate. Getting a good pitch to hit, he drilled one to the right side but Hulett was able to come up with the ball and flip it to Chuck Jeroloman to start the 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. Speigner then retired the side in the seventh inning setting the Tigers up for the final two innings. The eighth was the last serious threat for Florida as Mark Kiger singled to right field with two outs to begin a late rally. That would end the night for Speigner and bring Cory Dueitt into the game. He was greeted immediately with a single off the bat of Matt Goss to put runners on first and second with two outs. Facing Sobieraj, Dueitt got him to line out softly to Jeroloman at second base to end the inning and the threat.

Breathing a sigh of relief, the Tigers put the game away in the ninth and once again it was Huddleston who provided the start. Leading off the inning, he singled to left field and was replaced by Trent Wilson at first base. Expecting a bunt from Schade, Florida brought their infield in only to see Schade hit a chopper over the third baseman's head putting runners on second and third with no outs. It looked like it would be all for naught as Gamble and Pratt both struck out bringing Hulett to the plate. The freshman looked anything but that as he doubled to center field to score both runs giving Auburn a commanding 8-3 lead. Dueitt shut down the Gators in the ninth to close the door on a big Friday night win for the Tigers.

The Tigers got on the board first in the top of the second inning and Huddleston was the catalyst. Leading off the inning, he doubled down the left field line to put the pressure on the Gators. Schade followed with a walk to put runners on first and second. Right fielder Mike Mueller couldn't advance the runners as he struck out bringing Pratt to the plate. The senior catcher got his night off to a good start with a single to right field that loaded the bases for the freshmen infielders Hulett and Jeroloman. Hulett couldn't get the job done as he struck out on three pitches for the second out of the inning. Wanting to put the ball in play, Jeroloman never got a pitch to hit and drew the bases loaded walk to push across Huddleston with the first run of the game.

Florida answered back as only they can in the fourth as Mark Kiger led off the inning with his eighth home run of the season and just like that the game was tied again. The Gators extended their lead in the fifth inning thanks to some two-out heroics. With one out Pat Osborn singled to center field but the ball was misplayed by Moran allowing Osborn to reach second base. Speigner coaxed Ben Harrison to fly out to Vines in right field for the second out of the inning, moving Osborn to third. Catcher Brian Rose followed with a single to center field that scored Osborn from third to give the Gators the lead. Aaron Davidson followed with a double to left field that Gamble played perfectly, holding Rose at third base. It wound up not mattering as he would score on a passed ball with Kiger at the plate to give Florida the 3-1 lead after five innings.

Auburn and Florida meet for the second game of the series Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. when Eric Brandon takes the mound against Alex Hart from Florida. Brandon is 3-1 on the season with an ERA of 2.45 while Hart is a perfect 7-0 with a microscopic 1.90 earned run average.


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