Late Samford Score Dooms Tigers

Auburn couldn't capitalize on several scoring opportunities as the Tigers fell to Samford 5-4 Tuesday night.

Hoover, Ala.--Samford's Parker Gargis had two hits and earned his first victory on the mound as the Bulldogs defeated Auburn 5-4 Tuesday night in front of 1,129 fans at the Hoover Met.

Auburn reliever Peter Wiggins got the loss to fall to 3-3 on the season. Auburn's record falls to 14-18 overall while Samford improves to 15-15.

In a game that followed a recent pattern for the Tigers they couldn't score enough runs despite hitting the ball well against the Bulldogs. On the night Auburn pounded out 10 hits, but left 11 runners on base. That proved to be the killer for the Tigers on this night said Coach Tommy Slater.

"Our kids competed hard and had some good at-bats," Slater said. "I thought we played offense pretty well tonight. We stole some bases and we hit and ran well. We did a good job of getting our guys into scoring position, we just did a poor job of scoring those runs. Credit Samford for doing a good job."

On the mound the Tigers got a solid performance out of reliever Clarence Nicely. Coming out of the bullpen in the fourth, Nicely didn't allow a hit in four innings of work while striking out five Samford hitters. Slater said that his work on Tuesday was something they're hoping continues into the weekend.

"That's a couple of times now in the middle of the week that Clarence has done a good job," Slater said. "We need to see him carry that forward for us into a weekend. The mid-week games are times for our guys that haven't pitched a lot to get opportunities to show it. Clarence certainly did that tonight."

The Bulldogs wasted little time getting to Auburn starter Bryan Woodall as tiny shortstop Michael Marseco led off the bottom of the first with a triple and left fielder John Morgan followed with a double. Just a few pitches in and already Woodall was in a hole. Things didn't get any better as one out later an error by shortstop Justin Bristow allowed Parker Gargis to reach and Morgan to score from third to make it 2-0 Samford.

Auburn answered back in the top of the third inning thanks to the top of the order. Already with a hit on the night, second baseman Tyler Johnstone singled to put the Tigers in business. Following a Jeff Boutwell out designated hitter Mike Bianucci delivered the big blow. With two strikes Bianucci fouled off two pitches before getting a hanging breaking ball. Jumping on it, the freshman drove it deep over the second wall for his fifth home run. The blast was close to 400 feet in length and tied the game at two.

Bianucci leads Auburn in batting average at .389 and also in home runs with six. Here he heads for home after his blast Tuesday night.

Back even, the Tigers were looking to build on the momentum in the top of the inning, but Samford would have none of that. Leading off once again, Marseco singled to left to start another Bulldog rally. After the first out of the inning, a Louis Rojas walk put runners on first and third following a stolen base by Marseco and an error by catcher Ryan Jenkins. Gargis then followed with a single that scored Marseco to give Samford back the lead. Following a fielder's choice a Luke Peavy single scored Rojas for the 4-2 Bulldog lead.

Just like before Auburn answered to tie the game. With one out in the top of the fifth Bianucci singled to right for his second hit of the game. Moving the runner, Auburn executed a hit and run that Andy Bennett drilled off second baseman Trey Moody's glove into right field. The error allowed Bianucci to advance to third with just one out.

Third baseman Josh Donaldson then singled home Bianucci to tie the game. Following a wild pitch that moved Bennett to third, Luke Greinke put down a sacrifice bunt that scored the tying run from third.

Both teams settled in on the mound after that as Nicely pitched four scoreless innings for the Tigers while Samford starter Chandler Tidwell lasted until the sixth. With Gargis on in relief Auburn missed a golden opportunity to take the lead in the top of the eighth.

Leading off the inning Greinke singled to left and, following a pop up out by Stapleton, moved to third on a bloop single by Bristow to right field. A walk to Ben Jones loaded the bases with one out for the top of the order but the Tigers couldn't capitalize as Johnstone grounded into a fielder's choice for the second out and a Derek Sain flyout to deep center brought the inning to a close with the score still tied.

That would change in the bottom of the eighth as Peter Wiggins came on in relief of Nicely. Leading off the inning Gargis reached on an infield single, but was out on a Bear Burnett bunt attempt. With a runner still on first and one out Burnett stole second with a throw from new catcher Jonathan Rasberry late to the bag.

That set the table for Peavy to drive home the eventual game winner as he flared a single into right field to score Burnett and make it 5-4. Gargis closed the door on the Tigers in the ninth getting Greinke to strike out with pinch runner Bruce Edwards on third base to end the game.

At the plate the Tigers were led by Johnstone's three hits while Bianucci added two hits and two RBI. Bristow also had a single to extend his hitting streak to eight games. Marseco, Gargis and Peavy all had two hits for the Bulldogs as they finished the night with only seven hits against the Tigers.

This weekend Auburn travels to Ole Miss to face the improving Rebels in a three-game series. Ole Miss enters following a weekend sweep of Georgia last weekend in Athens.

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