Cha-Ching, Tigers Beat Bulldogs 7-5 To Open Series

Auburn came back from a 5-1 deficit to defeat the Mississippi State Bulldogs 7-5 Friday night at Plainsman Park in front of a crowd of 3,389.

Auburn, Ala.--Tug Hulett had three hits and the combined efforts of Auburn pitchers Eric Brandon, Mike Mueller and Steven Register allowed just seven hits as the Tigers defeated Mississippi State 7-5 in the important Friday night game.

Trailing 5-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth inning, the Tigers scored two runs and would outscore the Bulldogs 4-0 the rest of the way to get the win.

While the offense was a definite bright spot, Friday night there is no question that pitching was the difference in the game. Making his first start since the LSU series, Brandon allowed seven hits in six and two/thirds innings, but pitched through trouble giving the Tigers a chance to win the game late.

Mueller earned his second win of the season despite pitching to just one batter in the seventh inning. Register came on to start the eighth and it was lights out as he threw just 23 pitches and struck out four of the six batters he faced to earn his first save.

"That feels so good," Register said. "It feels great to be back out there and know the game is on my shoulders and I have to come through. Our team got the lead late and it's my job to go out there and get them out. We battled back and got the lead and played good defense...tonight it felt back like it was before I injured my shoulder. Everything was working good and I just made the plays that I needed."

For the first time since the North Carolina series back on March 8, the Tigers won on Friday night at home, something that seems like a year to the players on Auburn's team. For senior catcher Trent Pratt this was a big win and he contributed nicely to the victory with two hits and one run batted in.

"That's huge," Pratt said. "They came out and got a lead, but we finally battled back. We've been down before and in the first of the season we battled back, but we've kind of been struggling at that lately. Eric did a good job of keeping it where it was at and then Mike came in and got a big out. Then you saw what Steven did. I can't say anything about that. He was unbelievable. Steven Register was lights out for us."

Eric Brandon had a solid outing Friday night.

Trailing 5-1, the Tigers missed a golden opportunity to get a big inning in the fifth as freshman Hulett led off the frame with a single to left and was followed by a walk to Chuck Jeroloman to put runners on first and second with nobody out.

Jonathan Schuerholz was up next and failing to move the runners over, he hit a ground ball to Chad Henry at second base and barely beat the relay throw from Matthew Maniscalco to keep the inning going strong. Working a full count, freshman Sean Gamble hit a ground ball to Henry, but, luckily for Auburn, Schuerholz was running with the pitch and slid easily into second base forcing the throw to first for the second out of the inning. While that was going on Hulett scored from third with the second Auburn run of the game.

That brought Javon Moran to the plate with two outs. The sophomore continued to swing a hot stick as he singled to right to score Schuerholz from third making the score 5-3 Mississippi State. That would just be the beginning for the Tigers.

In the sixth a Doug Vines walk was followed by another Hulett single to right that put runners on first and second. Instead of bunting, Jeroloman hit a ground ball that took a high hop over Matthew Brinson's head at first base, scoring Vines and putting runners on second and third following an error on the right fielder trying to catch Vines at the plate. The Tigers would strand both runners, but left the inning knowing they were close to gaining control of the contest.

Javon Moran takes a cut against Bulldog starter Paul Maholm.

That would come in the seventh as Moran led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch from reliever Jonathan Papelbon, who was in for starter Paul Maholm. The speedy sophomore quickly stole second setting things up for Huddleston. He did his job by lifting a fly ball to center that allowed Moran to trot to third with the tying run.

Pratt followed with a hard ground ball that deflected off the glove of third baseman Brent Lewis. The hit allowed Moran to score and in the process Pratt would advance to second on an error by Maniscalco at short. That would be important as a Scott Schade ground ball snuck through Brinson's legs at first base just one batter later to score Pratt and suddenly Auburn was ahead 6-5. Hulett would score an insurance run in the eighth and Register took the game home for the 7-5 final.

Early on it looked like Brandon was the Eric of old as he cruised through the first four innings without as much as a scratch. Staked to a 1-0 lead following an RBI single by Schade, Brandon appeared to be on his way to another gem. That is until fate stepped in.

Just like in several past games the Tigers made a mental error that allowed the flood gates to open. Jon Mungle led off the fifth for the Bulldogs with a single to right field. Following a sacrifice bunt, Michael Brown lifted a pop-up in short right-center field that Moran, Hulett and Vines all lost in the twilight allowing him to reach with a single. That would become important as the Bulldogs eventually loaded the bases with two outs and Henry doubled to left-center to clear the bases. The carnage would continue as Brinson hit a bomb over the monster in left field for the 5-1 lead.

The two teams return to action Saturday at 3 p.m. when Colby Paxton takes the mound against Tanner Brock for Mississippi State. Paxton is 8-2 on the year with an ERA of 3.59 while Brock is 4-3 with an earned run average of 4.34.

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