Gators Top Tigers, 9-5, Behind The Arm Of Hart

Gainesville, Fla.---The 17th-ranked Auburn Tigers had sxithth-ranked Florida's ace Alex Hart solved for the first four innings. However, the junior right-hander settled in after a rocky start to shut down the Tigers over his last 3 2/3 innings to capture his eighth win of the season.

Florida's high-powered offense scored runs in four straight innings to support the pitching efforts and the Gators topped Auburn 9-5 on Saturday afternoon. The series is now even at one game apiece with the rubber game slated for noon on Sunday.

Auburn jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Junior Jonathan Schuerholz singled to right and advanced to second on an error by Florida right fielder Ben Harrison. Doug Vines doubled the next pitch to left center and scored Schuerholz from second. Vines was left stranded at third following two Auburn ground outs to end the inning.

Auburn starter Eric Brandon would keep the potent Gator bats silent for the first three innings, facing only one over the minimum.

Auburn extended the lead in the top of the fourth inning as Trent Pratt homered for the second straight game to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead. Catcher Bobby Huddleston led off the fourth with a walk. Following a Scott Schade strikeout, Pratt hit his seventh homer of the season over the left field wall.

The inning continued with a walk to Tug Hulett. Freshman left fielder Sean Gamble would follow the Hulett walk with a single to right. Gator right fielder Ben Harrison attempted to throw out Hulett at third, but the throw was short and recovered by Florida third baseman Pat Osborn. Hulett would score and Gamble advanced to third on the throw that went into the third base dugout.

Tiger center fielder Javon Moran then scored Gamble with a sacrifice fly to put the Tigers ahead 5-0.

Florida's offense would not stay quiet for long as the Gators posted two runs in each of the middle three innings. A one out walk to Mario Garza set the table for Florida's Ryan Shealey to hit his 12th homer of the season to cut the Tiger lead to 5-2 in the fourth. The Gators would single twice more, but leave runners stranded at first and third.

The fifth inning saw the Gators score two more to cut the Tigers' lead to 5-4. Harrison led off the inning with a single, was sacrificed to second and scored on a single by Aaron Sobieraj. Brandon would strike out Garza for the second out, but tough luck for the pitcher would allow the Gators to score an additional run with two outs.

Sobieraj moved to third on a throwing error by Tiger third baseman Schuerholz. The throw appeared to be on time, but handcuffed first baseman Schade. Pat Osborne sent home Sobieraj on a line drive off the glove of a leaping shortstop Chuck Jeroloman. Arnold Hughey relieved Brandon and coaxed a fly out by Matt Goss to end the fifth.

The Tigers threatened to extend the lead in the sixth inning following a one out bunt single by Hulett. Hulett advanced to second on a wild pitch, but was left stranded following a fly out by Gamble and a strikeout of Jeroloman.

Florida took the lead in the bottom of the sixth. A leadoff double by Aaron Davidson started the rally for the Gators. Catcher Brian Rose singled to chase Auburn's Hughey and drive in Davidson to tie the game at five.

Andrew Skinner replaced Hughey and coaxed a pop up bunt from Harrison. However, Rose would advance to second one batter later following a wild pitch. Mark Kiger then hit a ground ball to Jeroloman's left, but no play was made and Florida had runners at first and third.

The Tigers got Sobueraj to pop out to catcher Huddleston for the second out. Kiger tagged at first, Huddleston threw towards second, but the ball was cut off by Jeroloman. The Tigers had Rose at the plate, but the return throw to Huddleston was mishandled and Rose was safe to give the Gators the lead for good.

Florida added three insurance runs in the seventh off of Auburn relievers Mike Mueller, Sean Jones and Lee Carter to complete the scoring. Following the fourth inning outburst, the Tigers would only have two baserunners--Hulett in the sixth and Pratt on a walk in the ninth.

Hart pitched 7 2/3 innings, throwing 123 pitches and striking out five Tigers. Through four innings Hart had thrown 85 pitches. Much more efficient, he threw only 38 pitches the remaining 3 2/3 innings. Florida reliever Jamie Goldfarb came on to finish the Tigers off in the last 2 1/3 innings.

Auburn reliever Hughey (1-1) took the loss after pitching 1/3 inning and allowing two hits and two runs. Starter Brandon allowed six hits and four runs.

The Tigers and Gators play the rubber game of the series on Sunday at noon CST. The Tigers' Colby Paxton (6-1, 3.46 ERA) will face Florida's Keith Ramsey (3-1, 6.39 ERA). The game will be telecast live on the Sunshine Network.

Box Score

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories