AU Completes Opening Weekend Sweep Of Hofstra

Auburn used a four-run eighth inning to break open a close game and complete the sweep of Hofstra to open the 2007 season.

Auburn, Ala.--Not in the starting rotation because of a strained groin sophomore Paul Burnside made his presence known with four shutout innings of relief to earn the victory as Auburn completed a three-game sweep of Hofstra with a 10-5 win on Sunday at Plainsman Park.

Despite scoring in double figures in runs in all three games of a series for the first time since 2003 against Kentucky, Coach Tommy Slater says that Sunday was all about pitching and, in particular, Burnside.

"I'm very proud of our bullpen," Slater says. "I thought (Josh) Blake did some nice things for us early to help us out. Johnny Thompson, it's kind of his role to come in and clean up a mess for us real quick. Then you turn the ball over to Paul. He is so honest. He threw his last intrasquad last Sunday and he wasn't close to how he threw today. He told us his groin was bothering him. We made a decision and told him ‘Paul, we're going to hold you out of the starting rotation and hopefully give you some rest and hopefully by Sunday you'll feel better'.

"I went to him this morning and he said he felt great and was 100 percent," Slater adds. "So you trust him. Obviously he threw the ball very, very well. The game changed when he came in, it really did. He's the story of the day. Our hitters fed off what he was doing on the mound and we were able to manufacture some runs there."

Auburn true freshman Austin Hubbard got the start on the mound for the Tigers and didn't have the kind of opening day he was hoping for. Lasting just two innings Hubbard allowed four runs on just three hits while also walking three Hofstra hitters. Blake added one and two/thirds innings and gave up one run in relief and set the stage for Burnside's masterful performance to earn the win.

At the plate true freshman Robert Brooks led the way with three hits while center fielder Bruce Edwards added two singles. Sophomore Mike Bianucci was the long ball hero of the day with a three-run shot in the bottom of the eighth to put the game away.

Freshman Robert Brooks had three hits on Sunday and was 6-14 for the series.

Josh Donaldson also added a hit and two more RBI to give him 10 for the series. Burnside says that having an offense that can score runs in bunches gives a lot of confidence to a pitcher and it helped his performance in Sunday's win.

"Sooner or later we were going to explode, I knew it," Burnside says. "With our lineup you can't really get through it consistently getting our guys out. Eventually we're going to break you. Our guys work pitchers real well and we're not afraid to hit the ball deep a couple of times to throw up big numbers on the scoreboard. It's nice to have a club like that behind you."

In his first collegiate appearance Hubbard struggled to find the zone early allowing Hofstra to get the early advantage. In the top of the first Chris Menstrasti led off with a single to right field and one out later advanced to second on a single from Nick Panzarella. A walk to Anthony Sarno loaded the bases with just one out but Hubbard would settle down as he allowed just one run to score on a fielder's choice off the bat of Tony Schmitt. Heading to the bottom of the first Auburn trailed 1-0.

Just like they had done all weekend the Tigers answered back thanks to the middle of the Auburn batting order. With two out and nobody on in the first Donaldson and Bianucci reached on back-to-back walks to bring Andy Bennett to the plate. Hitting a sharp grounder to short Bennett reached on a fielder's choice and an error on the throw allowed Donaldson to score from second and tie the game at one. Back to back singles by freshmen Brooks and Eric Skinner gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead but the inning ended with Bennett being thrown out at the plate trying to stretch the advantage to two.

After surviving his early struggles Hubbard couldn't make it out of the third inning as Hofstra took advantage of some gifts to take the lead back from Auburn. Leading off Tom Legregni was hit by a Hubbard pitch to put the lead off man on for the Pride. A walk to Panzarella put Hofstra in business as Sarno doubled to score Legregni and tie the game at two. That would be the end of the day for Hubbard as Blake came on in relief. Despite getting two quick ground balls Blake gave up two more runs to make it 4-2 Hofstra early on Sunday.

The lead was extended to 5-2 in the top of the fourth as Menstrasti reached with one out as he was hit by a Blake pitch. Following a fly ball to left for the second out of the inning Panzarella singled to center to bring Sarno up once again with a chance to drive in a run. He did just that was he singled to left field to score Menstrasti and make it 5-2 Pride going to the bottom of the fourth as reliever Johnny Thompson got the Tigers out of the jam by getting a ground ball out the close out the inning.

That's when the Tigers would answer back in resounding fashion. True freshman Ross Smith led things off by getting hit by a Rogers pitch and quickly stealing second base. Following a Dustin Spruill fly ball to right field an Edwards single to right would easily score Smith to cut the lead back to just two. Following Smith's lead Edwards stole second on the first pitch to move into scoring position.

With Luke Greinke at the plate Hofstra's Rogers couldn't find the strike zone, walking the number two hitter on five pitches to bring Donaldson to the plate. A Hofstra killer on the weekend, Donaldson continued his torrid pace with a single to left field that scored both Edwards and Greinke after both had moved up on a passed ball. The three-run rally brought the Tigers back to even in the game and gave them the momentum to finish off the sweep.

With Burnside cruising on the mound after taking over to start the fifth, the Tigers would take the lead for good in the sixth. Pinch hitter Ryan Stanley got things going with a walk and was replaced by runner Phillip Stringer. Edwards was up next and the speedy senior put down a perfect bunt for a single to give the Tigers a runner in scoring position with nobody out. A Greinke bunt that was misplayed by Hofstra loaded the bases with nobody out for Donaldson but a double play ball ended the Auburn threat. While a run did score to give Auburn its first lead since the third inning it wasn't the big inning the Tigers had hoped for.

That would come in the eighth thanks to the big bat of Bianucci. Leading things off Stringer would reach on a bunt single to bring Edwards to the plate. Doing his job Edwards bunted Stringer over into scoring position with only one out. A Greinke single to left scored Stringer from second to make it 7-5 Tigers and bring Donaldson back to the plate looking for more.

Mike Bianucci had two home runs in the opening series against Hofstra.

Not getting any pitches to hit, Donaldson walked to bring Bianucci to the plate. The move was a bad one for Hofstra as Bianucci drilled a three-run shot to center field to put the finishes touches on a sweep for the Tigers. Greinke came on to close out the ninth as Auburn improves to 3-0 on the season with the win.

Auburn returns to action Tuesday at 3 p.m. as the Tigers take on Lipscomb at Plainsman Park. True freshman Taylor Thompson will get the start with sophomore Evan Crawford also expected to throw two innings in relief for the Tigers before he returns to the starting rotation next weekend.

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