Tigers Fall To LSU 9-5 In Series Finale

A record crowd of 13,220 fans crowded into Plainsman Park this weekend to see Auburn drop the series to LSU. Sunday the Tigers fell 9-5 thanks to a 15-hit LSU attack.

Auburn, Ala.--Perfection was a long way from Sunday afternoon for Auburn starting pitcher Eric Brandon as he allowed seven runs on seven hits in just two and two/thirds innings as the Tigers (24-10, 6-6) fell to the LSU Tigers (20-13, 5-6) by the score of 9-5.

The victory gives LSU the series win and drops Auburn three full games behind Western Division leader Alabama.

The loss was particularly hard to swallow for Auburn because of a breakdown in pitching. What had been the team strength coming into the weekend became a nightmare as LSU, for the second time on the weekend, blew the game open early during the way to a win.

"I think we gave up 15 runs in the first three innings of Friday and Sunday's games," Auburn coach Steve Renfroe said. "That's not our style. This club can't do that. We battled back and got it a game, then their kid made a great pitch and got a double play. We scratched back but we gave up another home run and another run. It just makes it tough to keep coming back and put it together...they outplayed us, that's the bottom line."

Despite getting into a hole early, Auburn was able to fight back and make a game of things thanks to the hitting of Javon Moran, Tug Hulett and others. Both Moran and Hulett had three hits in the game and Moran drove home two runs. Sean Gamble and Trent Pratt added two hits apiece as Auburn totaled 13 hits on the day in a losing effort.

"Tug played well," Renfroe said. "I thought he did a great job and really battled at the plate. I thought Javon played well and Chuck (Jeroloman). Sean Gamble was great and they really played well. They gave us a chance to win today. The young guys had some big-time at-bats, but we couldn't capitalize on it and hold them down."

That would be apparent in the very first inning of Sunday's game as LSU jumped to a big early lead. With two outs and nobody on, Brandon walked Wally Pontiff. That didn't seem to be a problem because Brandon was really looking good early. But sometimes things can happen that take you out of a rhythm and for Brandon that would come with the next batter. LSU right fielder Sean Barker lifted a shallow fly ball to center field that would normally be a routine play for Moran, but he broke the wrong way. That was just enough to allow the ball to fall in short center field and put LSU runners on first and third.

Visibly rattled, Brandon threw one low and away from catcher Trent Pratt. He was unable to make the play, allowing Pontiff to score with the first run. Two singles later and LSU was up 3-0 after just one half-inning of play.

Auburn would answer back in the bottom half of the first inning though as Moran singled to left and Gamble followed with a single of his own to put runners on first and second. After a failed attempted sacrifice bunt by Jonathan Schuerholz got Moran cut down at third, both runners moved up a base thanks to a balk by LSU starting pitcher Jason Vargas.

Bobby Huddleston was up next and he hit a ground ball to the right side that plated Gamble with the first Auburn run. A Pratt single then scored Schuerholz to make it 3-2 after one. Auburn would tie the score in the second as a Hulett leadoff single led to another run as he would later score on a Moran double.

Tied at three, things seemed to be looking good for Auburn but that wouldn't last long as LSU came back to all but put the game away in the third inning. A Pontiff single through the right side got the inning underway and after Barker reached on a fielder's choice, Matt Heath tripled to left to score Barker to break the tie. That would be just the beginning. By the time the damage was done Heath would score on a wild pitch and David Raymer would add a two-run home run. That would be enough to chase Brandon with LSU leading 7-3 and bring Mike Mueller into the game.

Mike Mueller pitches on Sunday for Auburn.

Mueller would get the job done as he pitched three innings and allowed just three hits and no runs. Freshman Ken Clayton would come on to relieve Mueller and also do an outstanding job, pitching one and one/third innings, allowing just one hit and no runs while striking out one LSU hitter.

While Auburn had settled in on the mound, the same wastrue of LSU. Reliever Brian Wilson, in for Vargas, stymied the Tigers for four and two/thirds innings. In his longest outing of the year, he allowed just four hits and two runs and gave his team some much-needed innings out of the bullpen.

The two runs Wilson allowed could have been much worse for LSU, but Auburn couldn't take advantage of a great opportunity to get back in the game. Hulett doubled down the left field line to get the seventh inning off to a good start. Jeroloman followed with a single up the middle to put runners on first and third with nobody out. Moran then drilled a one-hopper off the glove of Aaron Hill at shortstop to score Hulett and give Auburn runners on first and second with nobody out.

Gamble continued his hot streak by singling to center to score Jeroloman and make it 7-5 LSU with still nobody out and Auburn's three and four hitters coming to the plate. Unlike all year, this time Schuerholz and Huddleston wouldn't come through as Schuerholz struck out on four pitches and Huddleston hit into the inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to kill the Auburn rally and zap the life out of the team. LSU would add two runs off Cory Dueitt in the eighth to make the final 9-5.

The Tigers return to action Tuesday at 6 p.m. when they facethe sixth-ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Plainsman Park. The game will be broadcast live by Fox Sports South.

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