Tigers Over Vols: A Hall Of A Finish

Matt Hall's run scoring single in the ninth capped a late comeback for the Tigers in a 4-3 win over Tennessee.

Auburn, Ala.--Down 3-0 in the eighth inning and scoreless in their last 14 innings going back to Saturday's extra innings game, the Auburn Tigers scored two runs in both the eighth and ninth innings to complete a comeback 4-3 victory over Tennessee on Sunday to win their second consecutive SEC series.

Matt Hall's one-out single scored Brian Fletcher with the game winner and improved Auburn to 18-10 overall and 4-5 in SEC play while Tennessee falls to 16-9 overall and 5-4 in league action.

"We've battled hard all year long," Hall said. "We knew if we keep the game within reach we would have a good chance at the end. Like you saw last week, we were down 8-2 or 9-2 at one point and came back and almost won that game. It's never over for us.

"We would have liked to have gotten the win yesterday," he added. "We played great yesterday, but fell a little bit short. Today we came out and knew we had to battle all day long. We knew it was going to be a good game. All around we just played great ball."

Brian Fletcher and Trent Mummey celebrate Auburn's 4-3 win over Tennessee on Sunday.

On Sunday it looked to be over as Auburn was baffled by Tennessee starter Nick Hernandez. Coming into the game 0-1 with a 4.85 ERA in five appearances this season, Hernandez completely shut down what had been a powerful Auburn offense until Auburn finally scratched a run across in the eighth.

Leading off the inning, Hall reached on an infield single with leadoff man Trent Mummey on deck. Already with one hit on the day, Mummey hit a slow roller to the left of Tennessee shortstop Cody Graham. Fielding the ball, Graham tried to throw to second, but the throw was wild and went into right field. Both runners moved into scoring position with nobody out.

Back to back ground balls by David Cunningham and Mike Bianucci scored both runs to give the Tigers a chance in the ninth. Reliever Michael Hurst came on to pitch the ninth and gave up one hit while striking out two Vol hitters. That brought Auburn back to the plate in the ninth hoping to pull an unlikely win out of the hat on Sunday.

Auburn got some help early in the ninth as Graham booted a Joseph Sanders ground ball to open the inning. That signaled Jeff Lockwood time for the Vols. Tennessee's closer, he came on in the eighth and got the ground ball from Cunningham and re-entered the game in the ninth looking for the save.

After getting Patterson the second time around on a strikeout, Brian Fletcher singled off Lockwood's glove to bring little-used catcher Tony Caldwell to the plate.

Hitting just .154 for the season coming into the game, Caldwell was 0-3 on the day, but Coach Tommy Slater said the freshman had the right look in his eyes. Getting a pitch to drive, Caldwell laced a double to left field that easily scored Sanders and moved Fletcher to third with the game-winning run.

The hit brought Hall to the plate. With a base open it looked like a sure intentional walk situation, but the Vols decided to pitch to Hall. That was a mistake. Getting a pitch to hit, the shortstop drove it to left field for a single to score Fletcher and give the Tigers the victory.

"I was just up there hoping he would give me a good pitch to hit," Hall said. "I was looking curveball the whole at bat. He threw two of them and the second one I wasn't sure if it was a strike or not so I let it go. He hung me a third one and I handled it pretty good."

Matt Hall was 6-13 in the series against Tennessee and is currently on a nine-game hitting streak.

Unlike the first two games of the series, this time it was Tennessee's turn to jump out in front early. Getting the first two hitters of the inning on hard hit balls, Hendrix hit Yan Gomes with a 2-2 pitch to put the Vols in business. Red-hot Shawn Griffin followed with a single and Lockwood made it pay off with a single of his own to give Tennessee the 1-0 lead.

Lockwood was again at the center of things for the Vols as he doubled to lead off the fourth and advanced to third on an infield single by Andy Simunic. A ground ball scored Lockwood and that would be all for the Vols off Hendrix, but Tennessee led 2-0 with Hernandez cruising on the mound.

A mistake cost Auburn in the top of the eighth and could have proven to be the difference in the game. In something that has become a trend, the Vols got something going with two outs and nobody on. Shuman got the first two Tennessee hitters before the speedy Simunic reached on an infield single. A single by Josh Liles followed to move Simunic to third base where he would score moments later on a wild pitch to make it 3-0. That set the stage for Auburn's comeback victory in dramatic fashion.

Auburn got a solid pitching performance from true freshman Bradley Hendrix in his first SEC start. Going five and two/thirds innings, Hendrix allowed just two runs on seven hits and struck out two. Scott Shuman allowed a run on two hits in two and one/third innings while Hurst pitched a scoreless ninth.

Offensively, Hall led the way with three hits while Mummey and Hunter Morris had two hits each.

With the win Auburn keeps pace in the SEC West and wins back-to-back series in the league for the first time since 2006. Slater said to get a win in that fashion is a good feeling for his team heading into a tough series at Arkansas this coming weekend.

"I think it's real big," Slater said. "Our kids showed a lot of poise today. I was really pleased with how we pitched. Bradley Hendrix gave up some hard outs and got hit a little bit in the beginning, but settled in for us. Butch (Thompson) called a tremendous game.

"The kids hung in and battled," he added. "Hernandez was outstanding. He had us off balance all day. We got him out of the game and the bats woke up a little bit. I'm really proud of them. There is a lot of resiliency and character in this ball club."

Auburn returns to action Tuesday at 6 p.m. against South Alabama in Mobile. Grant Dayton will get the start with Taylor Thompson also expected to see early action against the Jaguars.

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