Freshman Steven Register picked up his third win in the last four SEC games by pitching two innings of relief, allowing three hits and two runs. Auburn starter Colby Paxton battled after giving up four early runs to pitch six and one/third innings, giving up 12 hits and seven earned runs. Georgia reliever Jeffrey Carswell, the ace out of the bullpen, took the loss for the Bulldogs as he allowed five hits and two runs in two and one/third innings pitched.
"This is very big," Moran said. "We came in knowing we had to win. Getting that first game out of the way does a lot for our team."
Javon Moran is on first base following one of his four hits on Friday night.
Leading 9-7 heading to the top of the eighth inning, things looked good for the Tigers as they sent the hard-throwing Register to the mound to close out a victory. In a game that saw the lead change three times and the momentum change more than that, Auburn coach Steve Renfroe was hoping the Georgia native could stick it to his home-state school. When things were said and done that's what happened, but not before a little drama.
Catcher Clint Sammons reached on an error by first baseman Scott Schade to open the inning and shortstop Jon Armitage followed with a double to center field that put runners on second and third with nobody out.
Lead-off man Chaz Lytle came through for the Bulldogs with a single to center that plated both runs to tie the game. After a fielder's choice retired Lytle and a Adam Swann pop-out to Schade at first, pinch-runner Darryle Blaze would make things interesting as, after advancing to second on a single by Matt Cavender, he moved to third when Moran bobbled the ball in center field.
Trying to coax the Tigers into a mistake, the Bulldogs sent Cavender from first hoping to sneak Blaze in, but Auburn catcher Trent Pratt held firm. With two runners in scoring position first baseman Justin McClain his a slow roller to Chuck Jeroloman deep in the hole at shortstop. Not having time to plant his feet, the freshman fired a strike to Schade at first to end the inning and send a sigh of relief among the 2,908 fans on hand.
Needing something good to happen, the senior Pratt started things off the right way in the bottom of the eighth with a long double to the gap in left-center field that brought the hot Hulett to the plate. In a normal bunt situation, the Auburn coaches decided against conventional wisdom in favor of allowing Hulett to take the swings.
Freshman Tug Hulett pounded out five hits for the Tigers in the 10-9 Tiger victory.
"Chris (Finwood) says, ‘Hey, we can let him swing,'" Renfroe says. "I talked to Tug and I said, ‘What do you think?' He said ‘The way I'm swinging it coach give me a shot.' We said okay. He was seeing it good and got a good pitch. That was a heck of a pitcher he got it on."
The move paid off as Hulett drilled a single right back through the box that scored Pratt from second base to give the Tigers the lead once again. That gave Register all the support he needed as he sat down the Bulldogs in order in the ninth with three strikeouts to seal the victory for the Tigers and move them one and a half games ahead of Mississippi State for seventh place in the SEC standings after Friday's play.
"I told Steven that if we come back and get up with a chance to tie it that I was going to give him the lead back and he needed to shut the door," Hulett said following the game. "He did just that. He came out smoking in the ninth inning...it was crazy, these kind of games are fun."
Perhaps the key moment for the Tigers came in the top of the seventh inning. Leading 8-6, Paxton went back to the mound trying to hold on to the precious lead. After getting the first out of the inning, Adam Swann drilled a Paxton offering off the top of the right field wall for a solo home run that cut the lead to just one. That brought Paxton's day to an end as Renfroe called upon Ken Clayton to keep the Bullldogs at bay.
The move didn't pay off as Clayton couldn't find the narrow strike zone of home plate umpire Rick Darby and walked both Cavender and McClain to bring Renfroe to the mound again.
This time Mike Mueller got the call. Facing third baseman Lee Mitchell, Mueller grooved a first pitch fastball that Mitchell drilled to left field. Luckily for the Tigers Sean Gamble was in the right spot for the second out of the inning as the ball was lined directly to him in medium left field. That brought second baseman Marshall Szabo to the plate. Taking the pitch the other way, the left-hander looped one softly into left field sending Gamble on the run. Timing his dive perfectly, Gamble snared the ball just above the grass on Hitchcock Field for the third out of the inning. That gave Auburn the momentum heading to the bottom of the inning.
The Tigers would respond as Doug Vines led off the inning with a single to center field. Trying to advance the runner, Chuck Jeroloman laid down a perfect bunt that stopped just inches from going foul down the first base line allowing him to reach for the single.
After a promising start to the inning things didn't look good as Jonathan Schuerholz and Gamble both failed to move the runners along setting the stage for Moran. Just like he's done seemingly every time during his nine-game hitting streak, Moran singled to center field to score Vines giving Auburn the 9-7 lead. But that wouldn't last for long as the Bulldogs would tie the game just an inning later setting up the late heroics once again.
Early on Georgia had its way with Paxton as the Bulldogs scored four runs in the second inning with the big blast a two-run home run by McClain. Auburn would get one back in the bottom half as a Schade single to right field scored Hulett from second after his double with one outs put the Tigers in scoring position. Auburn cut the lead to just one in the third as a Moran single ignited a small rally that eventually led to a Hulett double that scored Moran and designated hitter Bobby Huddleston making the score 4-3.
Georgia would add another run in the fourth before Auburn would break the game open in the fifth. Moran led off the inning with a solo home run, his third of the season. One out later, Pratt would earn a walk just in front of Hulett, who singled up the middle for his third hit of the night. That brought Schade to the plate. Struggling of late, he got a fastball and drove it deep over the center field wall for his sixth home run of the season to give Auburn the 7-5 lead. Both teams would add a single run in the sixth before the late heroics began for the Tigers.
Scott Schade is congratulated following his home run.
In addition to Hulett and Moran, Vines had three hits while Schade added two hits and four runs batted in. Jeroloman finished the night with two hits as well. For the Bulldogs, Armitage led the way with four hits while Mitchell added three hits. On the night the Tigers totaled 18 hits to Georgia's 15.
These two teams lock up once again on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. when junior Levale Speigner takes the mound for the Tigers against Bill Sharpton for Georgia.
Alabama 9, Mississippi State 5
Arkansas 5, Ole Miss 4
LSU 5, Florida 4
South Carolina 10, Tennessee 6
Vanderbilt 3, Kentucky 1