Sweep Ends Auburn's Hopes For Hoover

Late inning troubles hurt Auburn as Georgia scored seven runs in the final four innings to defeat the Tigers 9-4 Sunday at Plainsman Park.

Auburn, Ala.--Trailing 3-2 in the sixth inning, Georgia outscored Auburn 7-1 the rest of the way to take game three 9-4 and earn the series sweep over the Tigers.

With the loss Auburn is officially eliminated from the SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover and falls to 22-31 overall, 9-18 in SEC play.

Coach Tommy Slater said the weekend was a tough one for his team because they just weren't good enough to beat a solid Georgia ball club.

"I think that's the best team we've played all year," Slater said. "They've got talent, they've got experience, they've got good arms, they've got very athletic and very good position players. For me it's the best team we've played and the best team in the league. Prior to today, I thought the best team we had played was Arizona State."

The sweep was the second straight weekend the Tigers have been swept at home, marking the first time since the 1983 season that Auburn was swept twice at home in the same season. That season was also the last time the Tigers finished with an overall losing record.

Despite the struggles, Slater said his team isn't losing focus on the big picture and they feel good about the future of the program.

"The losses stink," Slater said. "They all stink. Nobody likes to see the L's, but I can't sit here and tell you that we didn't play any better at Florida than we did here. We just happen to have won those games. We didn't play any better when we were in Florida winning two out of three, we didn't play any better against Mississippi State winning two out of three than we did Friday night, Saturday, and for a bunch of innings today. We just didn't win.

"I have always said that the biggest jump a guy makes is between his freshman and sophomore year," he added. "They're all going to go out and play ball this summer and get a little stronger in the weight room. That's typically the year that guys make their biggest jumps.

"You think back to 1996 with (Casey) Dunn and (Chad) Wandall and (Jamie) Kersh, all the butt-whoopings they took on this field and in the batter's box and where they were the next year."

The loss went to Auburn starter Chris Dennis on a day when he pitched better than the outcome. In five and one/third innings the junior allowed four earned runs on nine hits while striking out four.

Relievers Bryan Woodall and Peter Wiggins were solid during the middle innings, but closer Luke Greinke struggled once again, giving up five hits and three earned runs in just two innings. Since injuring his shoulder against Appalachian State, Greinke's ERA has been 6.35 and Auburn has won just 12 of 33 games. Before his injury the ERA was a stellar 1.80 and the Tigers were 10-10.

For this game the story was the starting pitching and Slater said that Dennis had a good day, but it just wasn't good enough.

"His first inning was a little rough, but he settled in after that," Slater said of Dennis. "He did a pretty good job. I was proud of him. He was locating his pitches and he was working both sides of the plate. Anytime you can locate and work to both sides of the plate you have a chance to have success, and he did."

Just like they had done all weekend, the Bulldogs got off to a fast start against the Tigers with two runs in the first inning. Leading off Jonathan Wyatt singled up the middle off Dennis to put the Bulldogs in business. After an out and a wild pitch that moved Wyatt to second, a single by Gordon Beckham scored the speedy left fielder for the game's first run.

Following a strikeout of big Josh Morris, Dennis looked to be in good shape but Bobby Felmy's double scored Beckham to give Georgia the early 2-0 lead.

Trailing by two the Tigers finally got the offense going against Moreau in the bottom of the fourth inning. Leading off the inning catcher Josh Donaldson singled to left for just Auburn's second hit of the game. Following Russell Dixon being hit by a pitch, the Tigers got on the board as senior Jeff Boutwell laced a double over the head of Georgia center fielder Joey Side.

Jeff Boutwell had two doubles and scored two of Auburn's four runs for the game.

Playing offense as Slater calls it, the Tigers continued the inning as Andy Bennett worked a walk to load the bases for emerging Justin Bristow. Once again hitting the ball hard, Bristow singled just in front of Side in center field to score Dixon and tie the game at two. A Bruce Edwards ground ball on the infield scored Boutwell and gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead. It would last just one inning before the Bulldogs once again took the heart out of Auburn with a big inning.

Leading off the inning Jason Jacobs appeared to make the first out as he popped up the ball right over the plate. Fighting the wind, Donaldson couldn't make the play and the ball bounced foul. Jacobs would eventually walk and become a microcosm for the entire weekend for the Tigers. Instead of having one out the Tigers had a baserunner and two consecutive singles later Georgia had the game tied on a single by Ryan Beisel. That would be all for Dennis as Bryan Woodall came on in relief for Auburn.

The move didn't pay dividends for the Tigers as Matthew Dunn put down a perfect bunt that scored Matt Olson to give the Bulldogs back the lead at 4-3. Shaky defense once again hurt Auburn as Wyatt hit a ground ball for what would have been the last out of the inning, but Woodall dropped a toss from Bennett at first to load the bases with still two outs. It proved to be a huge play in the game as Beckham again hurt the Tigers, this time with a single to left field that scored two. Just like that Georgia was up 6-3.

The teams traded single runs in the eighth inning with Boutwell again coming up big with his second double of the game. With the lead down to a manageable 7-4 heading to the ninth, Auburn was looking to make a run and stay alive in the race for the SEC Tournament, but Georgia would have none of that.

Leading off the ninth against Greinke, Morris hit a towering home run over the scoreboard in left field. It was his 18th home run of the season and gave him the career record for home runs in Georgia history. The Bulldogs would add another run to push the lead to 9-4 heading to the bottom of the ninth where closer Stephen Dodson made the lead stand up.

The Tigers will next travel to Arkansas to face the Razorbacks in the regular season finale for both teams. Games will be played on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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