Blunders Cost Tigers On Senior Day

Two unearned runs proved to be the difference in Saturday's game as Auburn fell to Georgia 4-3.

Auburn, Ala.--While seniors Tyler Johnstone, Jeff Boutwell, Derek Sain and Grant Cardwell were honored on Saturday for their careers at Auburn, it was freshman pitcher Evan Crawford that almost carried the Tigers to a victory against Georgia before defensive lapses made the final 4-3 Bulldogs.

With the loss Auburn falls to 22-30 overall and 9-17 in conference play. The Tigers are now one loss away or a LSU victory away from being officially eliminated from the race for Hoover in 2006. Johnstone said the loss was a tough one to swallow after the team fought so hard to get the victory against a Georgia team that has now won 10-straight games overall and has jumped to third place in the SEC standings.

"It's definitely tough knowing we have to come out and win every game to give ourselves a shot," Johnstone said. "Obviously it's hard on everyone, but this builds character for the guys coming back. They'll know what it takes to go out and succeed in this league. For the seniors we're playing as hard as we can and finish on the best note we can for the program.

"It has been an unbelievable experience," he added about his time at Auburn. "You couldn't ask for anything more than playing here. I came from Purdue where the baseball team wasn't highly reputable. Coming to a baseball school like Auburn where you have great facilities and the fans are great, everything about it is first class. I'll cherish it forever and it has really meant a lot to play here two years."

Despite being the winning pitcher on Saturday and dropping to 5-7 on the season, Crawford had perhaps Auburn's best outing this season on the mound. Pitching seven complete innings, the freshman from Prattville allowed just two earned runs on seven hits and struck out five. Reliever Johnny Thompson came on to pitch the final two innings and didn't allow a hit. Coach Tommy Slater said that Crawford's outing was a thing of beauty and unfortunately the Tigers couldn't give him enough help.

"All losses are tough and this certainly was a tough one," Slater said. "I thought we pitched extremely well and I thought our kids battled at the plate against a good quality starter. (Brooks) Brown has been outstanding in all of his starts in league play. I thought we battled hard against (Joshua) Fields there late and took our walks. Our kids keep competing. I'm very proud of how our kids continue to compete and play the game."

Crawford reaches back for a little something extra against the Bulldogs.

Georgia got on the board first Saturday and once again it was catcher Jason Jacobs that did the damage. Entering the weekend with three home runs Jacobs homered Friday night and he added another on Saturday in the second to put the Bulldogs out in front. The lead wouldn't last long though as Auburn got to Georgia starter Brooks Brown in the third inning to get back even.

Leading off the inning, senior Sain singled to left field. In the starting lineup on Senior Day as the designated hitter, the Hoover native moved to second on a single by Johnstone. Trying to bunt the runners up, center fielder Luke Greinke worked a walk from Brown to load the bases with nobody out. Unfortunately for the Tigers they didn't make Georgia pay as they scored just one run on a one-out single by Andy Bennett to tie the game before Josh Donaldson hit into an inning-ending double play to kill the rally.

Auburn took the lead in the bottom of the fourth thanks to the bottom of the order. With one out Boutwell reached on an error by Georgia third baseman Ryan Peisel to bring shortstop Justin Bristow to the plate. Coming into the game with seven hits in his last four SEC games, the freshman delivered with a double down the line. Boutwell easily scored on the play to make it 2-1 Auburn.

Cruising through the first four innings, allowing just one run, Crawford ran into some trouble in the fifth. Some was created by himself, but shaky defense also cost the freshman dearly. With two runners after two walks and two outs, left fielder Jonathan Wyatt reached on an infield single to load the bases for Joey Side. Getting exactly what he wanted, Crawford watched as a ground ball to Bianucci at third was thrown away at first. The error allowed two runs to score and gave Georgia back the lead at 3-2.

The Bulldogs added to the lead in the sixth and once again it was poor defense by the Tigers that contributed. Leading off, Josh Morris singled off Crawford to put Georgia in business. Advancing to second on a stolen base, Morris scored on an error by Johnstone at second. Fielding a Bobby Felmy ground ball deep in the hole, Johnstone threw high at first allowing Morris to come all the way from second and score. Now ahead 4-2 the Bulldogs would survive a tough seventh inning as Auburn's offense came alive for one final charge.

Facing the top of the Auburn order for the third time in the game, Brown struggled as Johnstone walked to lead things off and Greinke followed with a single to right field after Johnstone had stolen second. Now with runners on the corners and nobody out, Auburn had the heart of the order coming to the plate. It almost didn't matter as both Bianucci and Bennett struck out to bring Donaldson to the plate. While he didn't drive the ball, Donaldson's slow roller to short got the job done as Johnstone scored from third on the play and an error allowed Auburn to move to second and third with two outs. That's how things would end as a Russell Dixon fly ball to center brought the inning to a close with the Tigers down one. Auburn would get the tying run on base in the ninth inning, but Fields slammed the door on the Tigers by getting the final two outs to earn his second save of the weekend and 12th of the season.

At the plate it was a tough night for the Tigers as they managed just eight hits against the Bulldogs. They did get base runners on several occasions and could never make Georgia pay. For the game the Tigers left 11 runners on base to end innings and many of those were on for multiple outs. Bianucci had one of his worst games of the season Saturday. Entering as the league's top hitter, Bianucci went 0-4 and left six runners on base for the game. Greinke and Donaldson had two hits each for the Tigers.

The Tigers and Bulldogs play the final game of the three-game series Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. with junior Chris Dennis on the mound for Auburn against Nathan Moreau for Georgia.

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