Auburn, Ala.--Hunter Morris, Brian Fletcher and Matt Hall all had three hits for the Auburn Tigers, but it wasn't enough to take out Kentucky on Sunday as the Wildcats scored nine runs in the first five innings and held off a furious comeback by the Tigers for a 9-8 victory at Plainsman Park. With the loss Auburn falls to 14-9 overall, 2-4 in SEC play while Kentucky improves to 20-2 overall, 4-2 in league action.
"Our kids really played well this weekend," Slater said. "The last four games starting Tuesday night down there on the road at Troy and then all three games this weekend I loved our energy. I loved the way we played. Our kids really thought they were going to win that game the whole time down 9-2...they really believed in themselves and gave themselves a chance to win there at the end."
Trailing 9-2 heading to the seventh, Auburn had to get something going on offense and they did that and more. After leaving the bases loaded in the sixth, the Tigers didn't have that problem in the seventh. Up first, second baseman Justin Hargett singled and one out later Morris single to right field to bring Fletcher to the plate. Struggling coming into the weekend, Fletcher already had two hits on the day and came through again with a scorching home run into the bullpen in right field. The blast cut the lead down to 9-5, but the Tigers weren't done.
Justin Hargett turns a double play for the Tigers on Sunday.
One out later David Cunningham reached on an error by the Kentucky shortstop and catcher Tony Caldwell followed with a single through the left side to bring Hall to bat with a chance to bring Auburn even closer. Looking for his third hit on the night, Hall drilled a triple to the gap in left center to score both Cunningham and Caldwell and make it 9-7 Kentucky heading to the eighth.
Following a scoreless eighth inning on the mound by Taylor Thompson for the Tigers, Auburn came back to bat looking for more. Leading off, Mike Bianucci reached on an error and advanced to second to move into scoring position. Morris then singled to center to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Fletcher again delivered, this time with a sacrifice fly to center field. The play scored Bianucci to cut the lead to just 9-8. Up next, Ben Jones grounded into a very questionable double play to end the inning as he appeared to beat the throw to first. Auburn had one final shot in the ninth and would make things interesting.
Leading off, pinch hitter Justin Jones worked a walk from Kentucky reliever Brock Baber and moved to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt by pinch hitter Ryan Jenkins. A Hall groundout moved Jones to third with two outs for Mummey. One of the fastest players on the team, Mummey hit a high hopper to the right side, but was thrown out by a step to end the game and give Kentucky the win. Hall said despite the outcome, he's proud of how the team performed in earning a series win and making a comeback on Sunday.
"It's huge," Hall said. "I feel like we started the game off a little bit slow. The fifth or six inning came and we turned it on. It just shows what kind of offense we have and what type of team we have to come back from a 9-2 deficit and make it a ballgame at the end."
Kentucky wasted little time in showing that a sweep wouldn't be easy for the Auburn Tigers on Sunday. In the first a one out single by Collin Cowgill got things started and Greinke didn't help his cause with a walk to Clint Spear to bring the dangerous Sawyer Carroll to the plate. Hitting .493 on the year, Carroll continued his hot play with a double to left to score Cowgill. Third baseman Chris McClendon followed with a single and just like that it was 2-0 Wildcats.
Auburn had a chance to break things open in the first against the talented senior Dombrowski. Leading off, Mummey worked a walk to get things going. Trying to be aggressive, Auburn sent Mummey on a two-strike pitch with Hargett at the plate. A swing and miss and a good throw to second completed the double play to dampen the spirit early.
Bianucci would have none of that though as the junior jumped on the first pitch he saw and lifted it over the wall in left field for a solo home run. It was his fourth of the season and cut the Kentucky lead down to one. Auburn wasn't done though as singles by Morris and Fletcher and a double by Kevin Patterson pushed across the second run of the inning and left Fletcher on third. Trying for the spectacular, Fletcher was thrown out trying to steal home to end the inning, but the Tigers had succeeded in getting on the board early.
Unfortunately the Wildcats were in an offensive mood on Sunday as they scored a single run to take the lead back in the second before two more in the third broke the game open. With one out Ryan Wilkes bunted for a base hit to bring Tyler Howe to the plate. Crushing a ball to center field, Howe advanced to second when Mummey dropped the ball in deep center field after making a long run to get in position.
A walk loaded the bases for Marcus Nidiffer. Hitting a slow ground ball to second, Nidifer advanced to second when the throw got by Morris at first. The error allowed two runs to score and make it 5-2 Wildcats. The lead would eventually grown to 9-2 after two runs in both the fourth and sixth innings for Kentucky, but Auburn would make a run only to come up short.
On the day Auburn pounded out 14 hits and knocked out Kentucky starter Greg Dombrowski after just four and a third innings with six hits and two earned runs. Luke Greinke fared even worse for the Tigers as his first SEC start was one to forget. In three innings Greinke allowed five runs, three earned, and six hits. Reliever Michael Hurst gave up two runs on four hits in one inning while Evan Crawford, Bradley Hendrix, Thompson and Bryan Woodall combined to give up just three hits and no runs in the final five innings.
Auburn returns to action this week for midweek games on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. against Mercer at home and then Wednesday night at 6 p.m. against Samford at Regions Park in Hoover. Next weekend the Tigers play host to Tennessee at home for a three-game series.