Big Innings Cost Tigers In Loss To Dawgs

Georgia scored nine runs in two innings and held off the Auburn Tigers to earn their ninth straight victory overall.

Auburn, Ala.--Georgia (33-16, 14-11) scored five runs in the first and four more in the fifth inning and held off a stubborn Auburn (22-29, 9-16) team to win game one of a three-game series 10-7 Friday night at Plainsman Park.

Catcher Jason Jacobs was the star of the night for the Bulldogs with two hits and five RBI to lead a Georgia offense that finished the night with 14 hits.

For Auburn the story was a shaky first inning as true freshman Paul Burnside gave up five runs in the first inning to break his 25 1/3 streak of not allowing an earned run in conference play. In his first career start Burnside just couldn't find the groove early and Auburn Coach Tommy Slater said that while he struggled early the story for Burnside is how he handled the tough start.

"Maybe Paul was a little nervous in his first start," Slater said. "I don't know, but I can tell you what a studly effort tonight by him to go out and put some zeros up after the first. He got behind their hitters in that first inning and they're very good. That's a good looking offensive club that Georgia's got. After that first inning Paul went out and put some zeros up for us and I was really proud of him doing that.

It didn't take long for Georgia to ruin Burnside's streak as the Bulldogs jumped all over the freshman with five runs in the first inning. Leading things off Jonathan Wyatt singled to left field just in front of Luke Greinke. Joey Side then singled to bring Gordon Beckham to the plate. Getting behind early, Burnside couldn't recover and walked the shortstop to load the bases for Josh Morris.

Getting a pitch to hit, Morris ripped a single to left field that scored Wyatt and left the bases loaded with still one out. A Bobby Felmy sacrifice fly to left field made it 2-0 Georgia and brought Jacobs to the plate. Getting a fastball out over the plate, Jacobs blasted it deep over the wall in left field for a three-run shot. The blast gave the Bulldogs a 5-0 lead and put Auburn in a deep hole early.

With their backs to the wall the Tigers weren't about to quit and it started in the bottom of the second against Georgia starter Mickey Westphal. Coming into the game with a perfect 5-0 record this season, Westphal hit first baseman Andy Bennett to open the second. After striking out Jeff Boutwell, Westphal gave up the first of three hits on the night to Russell Dixon. A double to the gap left the Tigers with runners on second and third and one out. Singles by Justin Bristow and Tyler Johnstone scored both runs and just like that the lead was down to three.

One swing of the bat in the third made it 5-3 as Mike Bianucci's eighth home run of the season got the Auburn offense going and the Tigers put it all together in the fourth with three runs to take the lead for the first time. Leading off Bristow singled to left and advanced to second when Bruce Edwards was hit by a pitch. Johnstone then put down a perfect sacrifice bunt that third baseman Ryan Peisel threw low to first for an error. It left the bases loaded with the heart of the Auburn order coming to the plate.

Bianucci's eighth home run of the season was a no doubter on Friday.

Coming through in the clutch, Greinke ripped a single to right field to score Bristow and keep the bases loaded for Bianucci. Hitting a slow roller to the right side, Bristow was thrown out at first but pushed across the second run of the inning. A Josh Donaldson fly ball to center field scored Johnstone for the final run of the inning to give Auburn a 6-5 advantage heading to the fifth inning.

"I thought offensively our guys did a really nice job against Westphal," Slater said. "There were lots of line drives tonight. All the film we had watched there were lots of pop ups and fly ball outs. I thought our kids came in with a plan of attack and executed well. That was good to see."

Unfortunately for the Tigers that would be it offensively on the night for the most part as Westphal settled in, pitching into the seventh inning before giving way to reliever Rip Warren. By that time his team had built the lead back to four thanks to a big four-run inning in the fifth. Once again Jacobs was the thorn in the side of the Auburn team as his two-run double scored the first two runs of the inning and was the second of three doubles in the inning as the Bulldogs pushed the lead out to 9-6. A single run by each team in the seventh made it 10-7 and Georgia closer Joshua Fields shut down the Tigers to earn his 11th save of the season.

Auburn was led at the plate by Bianucci and Dixon who each had three hits. Both Boutwell and Bristow finished with two hits. Reliever Andy Masten came on in relief of Burnside and pitched the final four and two/thirds innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits. Georgia had five players with two hits on the night allowing Westphal to earn the win despite giving up 11 hits and six earned runs in six and two/thirds innings.

The loss drops Auburn to 9-16 in the SEC and they remain two and a half games behind Mississippi State for ninth after the Bulldogs lost to Kentucky 18-5 Friday night. Tennessee moved to a game and a half in front of Auburn with a victory over South Carolina while LSU's win over Vanderbilt 4-3 improves LSU to 12-13 overall and moves them to seventh into a tie with the Commodores.

Auburn and Georgia tangle again Saturday at 4 p.m. in game two of the series. It is senior day on the Plains as Johnston, Boutwell, Derek Sain and Grant Cardwell will be recognized before the game.

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