Ugly Sixth Inning Stings The Tigers

Auburn, Ala.—Fourth-ranked Georgia Tech used a complete breakdown by the Auburn Tigers in the top of the sixth inning on the way to a 9-5 baseball victory Tuesday night at Plainsman Park.

The Yellow Jackets scored seven runs on just four hits in the sixth inning, but were aided by three walks and three Auburn errors to break open a tie game on the way to the easy victory. The loss drops 22nd-ranked Auburn to 24-11 overall while Georgia Tech improves to 28-4.

Tech starter Jeff Watchko got the win by pitching six innings and allowing three runs on five hits while striking out two Auburn hitters. The loss spoiled a strong outing by true freshman lefty Arnold Hughey for the Tigers. He pitched five innings and allowed just one run on three hits while striking out four hitters. However, the Auburn bullpen couldn't maintain his performance as their entrance into the sixth inning jump-started problems on the field for the Tigers that would eventually cost them the game.

"That was a tough inning," Auburn coach Steve Renfroe said. "It was just ugly, there are no two ways about it. Walking guys and dropping fly balls. It was just bad baseball. Arnold threw very well, but he was on a pitch count and got to it. We needed to get him ready for Sunday and we had to get him out of there. We were trying to piece it to get Levale (Speigner) an inning of work and Cory (Dueitt) an inning later and we just didn't get there."

Freshman Arnold Hughey pitched five solid innings for the Tigers Tuesday night.

Early on it was a pitcher's duel as Hughey and Watchko mowed down batters left and right. It wasn't until the third inning that either team got on board. Freshman shortstop Chuck Jeroloman got Auburn going with one out by hitting a single to right field. Atlanta native Jonathan Schuerholz, moved into the lead-off spot for the game, then reached for the second time on an error. This time Tech third baseman Matthew Boggs threw the ball away at first putting runners on second and third with one out.

Sean Gamble then did his job, hitting a chopper to second that allowed Jeroloman to score the first run of the game.

The Yellow Jackets would get that run back in the fifth inning off Hughey. With one out and nobody on, third baseman Matthew Boggs was hit by a Hughey pitch. Lead-off man Eric Patterson then hit what looked like a sure double play ball, but Jeroloman couldn't get the ball out his glove making the turn allowing Patterson to reach first. That would prove costly as, after a stolen base, he would score on a Victor Menocal double to left field to leave the game tied at one. Things would get ugly in a hurry for the Tigers from that point on the way to the Georgia Tech victory.

In the top of the sixth inning, reliever Kenny Clayton came on to replace Hughey to start the frame. It was evident from the first pitch that the redshirt freshman didn't have his normal stuff. After walking the first two batters of the inning, he gave way to another freshman, Lee Carter. Just like Clayton, Carter had his problems both with the strike zone and then the Tech hitters. First baseman Jason Perry singled to center to score Tyler Parker from second with the first run of the inning. One out later, pinch hitter Clifton Renly walked to load the bases for Boggs. Lifting a fly ball to left field, he appeared to have done his job with a sacrifice fly, but Gamble dropped the ball allowing the run to score and leave the bases loaded.

Patterson then singled to right to score another run with still just one out. Before the inning was done Auburn would use another pitcher, Andrew Skinner, and Tech would score seven runs to take a commanding 8-1 lead.

The Tigers would strike back in the bottom half of the inning thanks to the middle of the order. Down to third in the lineup, center fielder Javon Moran singled sharply to left field to start an Auburn rally. Catcher Bobby Huddleston then got hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with just one out.

One out later Doug Vines, who had three of Auburn's eight hits on the night, had an infield single to load the bases for Scott Schade. The sophomore first baseman continued to come through in the clutch as he drilled a single to right field that scored Moran and Huddleston to make it 8-3 Tech. Georgia Tech would add a run in the seventh to make the final 9-3.

Javon Moran connects on one of his two hits on the night.

The hitting star of the night was Menocal. The senior shortstop had three hits for the Yellow Jackets and drove in three runs. Perry also had a good night with two hits for Tech. For the Tigers Moran had two hits and Jeroloman also chipped in with two hits. The problem for Auburn was in the field and on the mound where the Tigers committed a season-high four errors and walked a season-high seven Georgia Tech batters.

"We battled but we need to play better," Renfroe said. "We're playing Top 10 teams and you just can't give them seven or eight free bases with hit batters and walks. Then you drop a few balls and you just can't do that and beat a good club. We need to do better than to come close."

The Tigers return to action Friday at 6 p.m. when they travel to Oxford to face the streaking and ninth-ranked Ole Miss Rebels. Winners of 11-straight, the Rebels will face a change in the Auburn pitching staff as Colby Paxton will go on Friday night with Speigner (who pitched the eighth inning Tuesday night) going on Saturday and Mike Mueller will get the start on Sunday. Friday night's game will be televised by Comcast Sports while Saturday's game is the SEC Game of the Week and will be shown on Fox Sports Net South.

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