Burnside And Tigers Flush Tide

Auburn won for the third consecutive Friday night as the baseball Tigers pounded rival Alabama 12-5.

Auburn, Ala.--For the third consecutive week, the Auburn Tigers turned in a complete performance on a Friday night as starter Paul Burnside went eight innings and sophomore Mike Bianucci blasted two home runs and drove home four on the way to a 12-5 pasting of rival Alabama at Plainsman Park.

The win improves Auburn to 26-15 overall, 5-11 in SEC play, while Alabama falls to 22-17, 7-9 in conference action.

The story of the night was Burnside. Becoming a dominant Friday night starter for the Tigers, the Montgomery native allowed just six hits and four earned runs in eight innings to pick up his seventh win of the season against just one defeat.

Throwing a career-high 125 pitches, Burnside gave Coach Tommy Slater and the Tigers everything they could have hoped for in a Friday night victory.

"Paul set the tone," Slater says. "It starts on the mound, it always does. Paul is our Friday night guy and he keeps doing a great job of it. He didn't have hit best stuff last week, but I think he showed a lot of maturity. To me that was kind of his coming-out, growing-up party. He pitched seven innings without his best stuff.

He had good stuff tonight. Our guys really believe in him and they played well behind him. He's become a legit Friday night guy for us."

Auburn's offense was outstanding on the night with Bianucci leading the way, but he wasn't the only standout as fellow sophomore Luke Greinke added three hits and three RBI and extended his hitting streak 16 games.

Freshman Ross Smith added his second home run of the season as well on a night that Slater says his team executed nicely against a tough starter in Alabama's Miers Quigley.

"He's really good," Slater says. "Quigley was projected as a top-two round guy out of high school. I know the Cardinals made a run at him before he went to Alabama and offered him a lot of money. I think he was having a little trouble getting his off-speed stuff over and our kids were able to zone in."

In what was expected to be a pitchers' duel, it was Alabama that got on the board first Friday night in the second inning. Leading off, first baseman Matt Bentley was hit by a pitch to bring veteran Brandon Belcher to the plate. Working the count full, Belcher turned on an inside pitch and just got enough of it to send it over the "K" Corner in right field for a two-run homer. His second of the year gave Alabama a 2-0 advantage but it wouldn't last long.

With one out in the second, Tuscaloosa native Dustin Spruill singled to right field to begin one of the biggest innings of the season for the Tigers. Worried about the limited running threat from Spruill at first, Quigley threw a pitch to the screen to allow the freshman to advance to second.

A walk to Robert Brooks on 10 pitches followed and just like that, Auburn was in business. Slater says the walk to Brooks changed Auburn's fortunes because of the job he did staying alive.

"That's really what set the tone for the whole offensive inning," Slater says. "That's a great, great at bat by a young kid. He just kept battling and battling and draws the walk. We talk about that all the time. That really set that whole inning up offensive for us."

Next up was Smith and it was his turn to once again show the power. Getting behind 1-2 in the count, Smith turned on a pitch and drove it deep over the wall in left field for his second home run of the season. The blast put the Tigers ahead 3-2, but things were just getting started as Phillip Stringer danced out of the way of an obvious inside pitch and then promptly singled back up the middle to keep things going. The hit gave Auburn even more life and Quigley would be the one to pay.

Ross Smith prepares to celebrate with his teammates after his big home run gave Auburn the lead.

Putting Stringer on the move, Auburn executed perfectly as Bruce Edwards singled to right field to advance Stringer to third with still just one out. A wild pitch that bounced just in front of the plate was enough to move Edwards to second for Luke Greinke and the sophomore delivered, scratching a single through the infield that scored two for a 5-2 lead.

A walk to Josh Donaldson again put two runners on for Mike Bianucci and the sophomore jumped on a 2-0 pitch for a sharp single to left field. Edwards scored on the play with Donaldson moving to third and Bianucci taking second on the throw. A passed ball charged to Alabama catcher Kyle Moore allowed Donaldson to score for the seventh run of the inning. A sacrifice fly by Joseph Sanders closed the scoring in the second as Auburn took a commanding 8-2 lead to the third.

Paul Burnside picked up his seventh victory.

The Tigers weren't done as they added a single run in the bottom of the fourth on Greinke's second run-scoring single of the night.

With Burnside cruising, Auburn came back for more in the sixth and got one run thanks to the long ball. Getting a pitch to drive, Bianucci hit a long home run over the monster in left field for the 10-2 lead. It was the 11th home run of the season for Bianucci and put Auburn in good shape for the victory.

It wasn't easy though as Alabama finally got to Burnside again as it scored two in the seventh. Auburn's old nemesis once again reared its head as Jake Smith received a walk to open the top of the seventh. It proved to be big as one out later Greg Paiml doubled to right field to put runners on second and third with just one out and Emeel Salem coming to the plate. Robbed three times already, Salem got an old-fashioned pitch around for a walk to load the bases for Brandon May. The lefty almost got Alabama right back into things as he hit a liner into right field that a sliding Edwards just tracked down in time. The play allowed Smith to score from third to make it 10-3.

A single by Alex Avila pushed across the second run of the inning to cut the lead to six, but Burnside got Del Howell on strikes to end the frame with Auburn leading 10-4.

The Crimson Tide wasn't finished as a tired Burnside went back out for the eighth inning. For the second time on the night, Burnside hit Bentley to open an inning, but this time retired Belcher for the first out. A Smith ground ball to third base looked like it would end the inning, but Sanders couldn't find the handle on the ball, leaving runners on first and second with still one out.

Shaky play cost Burnside his final run of the game as a wild pitch moved Bentley to third and a wild throw from Donaldson went into left field. Bentley scored on the play to make it 10-5 Auburn.

That would be it in the inning though as Burnside retired the final two Crimson Tide batters he faced, turning things over to Brett Butts in the ninth but not before Bianucci again went deep, this time with a runner on base. His second home run of the game put the Tigers up 12-5.

Butts finished off Alabama with a scoreless ninth to give Auburn a key SEC victory. Burnside says he's pleased with his performance on the mound although he didn't pitch as well as he would have liked.

"I was just trying to throw strikes out there," Burnside says. "The defense made plays. They hit a lot of balls hard right at guys. I was lucky enough to be on the right side of that. So many things went wrong for us in our streak of losing earlier, it's nice to have some balls fall our way this time."

A view of the terrace in left field as well as many of the fans not in the announced crowd of 3,721 on Friday night.

At the plate, Auburn pounded out 14 hits against the Crimson Tide with Edwards and Spruill with two hits each in addition to the three each from Bianucci and Greinke. For Alabama, Avila had three hits and one RBI while Belcher added a hit and two runs batted in.

Box Score

Auburn will take on Alabama in game two of the series Saturday afternoon at three o'clock. Freshman Taylor Thompson will get the ball for the Tigers against Bernard Robert for the Crimson Tide.

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