Tigers Pound Wildcats To Earn Series Win

Auburn's offense exploded for 16 hits and 12 runs as the Tigers got their first series win in conference play this season.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers pounded Kentucky pitching for 16 hits and freshman pitcher Paul Burnside picked up his first college win in relief of starter Chris Dennis as the Tigers beat the Wildcats 12-6 to earn their first series win of the season in SEC action.

Auburn improves to 14-17 overall and 3-6 in SEC play while Kentucky falls to 22-7, 5-4 in conference action.

Catcher Josh Donaldson's four hits and three RBI led a potent Auburn attack, but Coach Tommy Slater said this game was all about the pitching of Burnside.

"Paul Burnside was really the story today," Slater said. "He has really thrown well. He threw well at Vandy last weekend and Tuesday night at Troy. He followed that up today with another outstanding outing. I'm really proud of him.

"Anytime you win a series it feels good," he added. "Our kids have worked very hard and they're very deserving. It's nice to see them get rewarded this weekend with a series win for all the hard work they've put in."

Offensively the Tigers were hitting on cylinders with 27 baserunners on the day leading to 12 runs. In addition to Donaldson's big day, both Tyler Johnstone and Mike Bianucci had three hits. All total the Tigers had six doubles against a starting pitcher that had not allowed an extra-base hit in his last three starts. Donaldson said he feels like this team is just beginning to find its stride offensively at just the right time.

"This was a great win to come out here after a tough loss on Friday and battling back these last two days," Donaldson said. "It has really meant a lot to this team and maybe we can get this thing turned around.

"I think our whole team is coming around," he added. "Our young guys are starting to produce a little bit and we've got a couple of new faces in the lineup. We're starting to do a little damage now seeing the ball and hitting the ball. We're starting to play a little defense as well. That equals winning games."

Donaldson leads the Tigers in doubles this season and added three to the total on Sunday.

Auburn wasted little time getting to Kentucky starter Greg Dombrowsky on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at Plainsman Park. Entering with a 5-0 record on the season and an ERA of just 1.21, Dombrowsky had been just about unhittable this season, but the Tigers proved that theory dead wrong on this day. With one out in the first Jeff Boutwell reached after being hit by a pitch to bring Mike Bianucci to the plate. Continuing his torrid pace on the weekend, the freshman singled to left field to put the Tigers in business.

Following an Andy Bennett fly ball to left, catcher Josh Donaldson came through with a sharp single to left that easily scored Boutwell for the game's first run. Center fielder Luke Greinke then worked a walk from Dombrowsky to bring Justin Bristow to the plate. Putting the ball into play, Bristow grounded to shortstop Matt McKinney but his throw to first was low and got by first baseman Ryan Strieby. The error allowed two runs to score and gave Auburn a three-run advantage after one inning of play.

Still not back to 100 percent after a bout with pleurisy that affected his breathing, junior starter Chris Dennis got through one inning unscathed, but wouldn't be as fortunate in the second. Leading off the inning catcher Sean Coughlin worked a walk from Dennis as did the second man up John Shelby. Dennis came back to get two quick outs, but that would be it for him on this day as a Brian Hastings single started a run for the Wildcats at the plate. Two more singles and a hit batter would bring Dennis' day to a quick end as Burnside got the final out of the inning but not before Kentucky had taken a 4-3 lead.

The Tigers got back to work against Dombrowsky in the second with Tyler Johnstone getting things started with a single up the middle. After a Boutwell ground ball moved him to second, Johnstone scored moments later on a Bianucci double to right field. Following a Bennett hit-by-pitch, Donaldson closed out the scoring for the inning with another double. The hit scored Bianucci to give Auburn back the lead 5-4.

With Burnside surviving on the mound despite Kentucky loading the bases in the top of the fifth but not scoring, Auburn started to break the game open with a single run in the bottom of that inning. The Montgomery freshman said that once he settled into the game he felt fine and his pitching gave the Auburn offense the free reign to break the game open one inning later.

"When I went in I wanted to throw strikes and I did pretty well the first couple of innings," Burnside said. "The heat started to get to me I guess and my legs got a little tired and I started to labor a little bit. I had a few walks here or there, but I was able to get out of it. It definitely felt good to get that last strikeout in the fifth."

Outfield Josh Stapleton makes a play in right field in front of the K Korner.

The fifth would be just a warm-up for the Auburn offense as the Tigers put the finishing touches on a series win with a big sixth inning. Leading off, Donaldson doubled into the gap in left-center to bring Greinke to the plate. Continuing his solid weekend at the plate, Greinke put down a perfect bunt that he beat out for a single. A Bristow double then scored Donaldson to put the Auburn machine into full gear. After back-to-back outs, Johnstone doubled followed by a Boutwell walk to bring Bianucci back to the plate. Facing sidearm reliever Dewayne Oxford, Bianucci was hit by a pitch to bring Bennett back up once again.

Bennett isn't Auburn's top RBI producer by chance and once again he came through, this time with a double that hopped over the wall in right field for a ground rule double. That hit gave Auburn a commanding 11-4 advantage. Kentucky added single runs in the seventh and eighth before a Donaldson double scored Boutwell to finish off the scoring in the bottom of the eighth. Reliever Johnny Thompson came on to pitch a perfect ninth inning for the Tigers.

Auburn returns to action Tuesday at 7 p.m. when the Tigers head to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium to face the Samford Bulldogs in a single game. Next weekend the Tigers travel to Oxford to face the Ole Miss Rebels in a three-game series.

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