The series victory is the first for an Auburn team to open SEC play since 2003 and is the first season-opening series win on the road since the 1997 season. While it didn't end in a sweep, coach John Pawlowski said it was huge for his team to go on the road and get a good start in Southeastern Conference play.
"It was a little frustrating in that second ballgame, but when you look at the grand scheme of things, going on the road in the first SEC series and winning those first two ballgames, I told the kids there are a lot of positive things to take from this weekend," Pawlowski said. "Certainly winning two out of three gets us off to a good start. It's something we've got to continue to work on."
Splitting the series, Auburn improves to 13-5 on the season and won its 11th consecutive game before dropping game two of the doubleheader. Hitting four home runs in the 8-5 win in game one, the Tigers now have 39 on the season. That is already tied for 21st in school history with the 1989 and 1993 teams.
In game one the Tigers again got off to a hot start at the plate with four home runs in the first inning and rode that to victory behind the pitching of redshirt freshman Jon Luke Jacobs.
"Next time I would like to get a couple of guys on before we do that," Pawlowski said. "The kids battled hard in that first game. There were a couple of defensive plays where we were very fortunate to get out of an inning. Trent Mummey threw a guy out at third and then Casey McElroy went deep in the hole to make a play. Those two were big. The game could certainly turn around from that point. It was good to see Austin Hubbard get out of the seventh inning for us. He did a great job."
Leading off, center fielder Trent Mummey singled and scored one out later on a double by Ben Jones, one of his three hits in game one. Following a strikeout by Hunter Morris, Brian Fletcher drove a pitch over the left field wall for his sixth home run of the season. That put Auburn up 3-0, but the Tigers weren't quite done as Kevin Patterson followed with a homer to right field as well. Staked to a 4-0 lead, Auburn starter Jon Luke Jacobs set out to make it stand up.
He survived a bases loaded situation in the first by getting Jeff Lockwood to ground out to Joseph Sanders at third base and once again Auburn got some offense going in the second as Casey McElroy walked and later scored on a Mummey double to give the Tigers a commanding 5-0 advantage.
The lead would balloon to six in the third as Morris singled to lead off the inning and later scored on a two-out double from Tony Caldwell. Tennessee finally got to Jacobs in the bottom of the third to cut the lead in half. P.J. Polk's single was the first of five consecutive hits for the Vols in the inning, but Mummey threw out Logan Forsythe at third base and Jacobs got the final two hitters to limit the damage, keeping Auburn in front 6-3 after three.
Things settled in after that as the score remained unchanged until the top of the sixth when McElroy's two-out homer to center field put the Tigers back in front by four. Tennessee answered back with a run in the bottom of the inning. Things could have been worse as the Vols had three hits and a walk, but a base running error again helped the Tigers keep the advantage at three.
The long ball was again the story in the seventh for Auburn as Sanders hit his ninth with one out in the inning to push the Tigers' lead back to 8-4. It was the 39th of the season for Auburn. Tennessee managed a single run in the final inning before Austin Hubbard came on in relief of Bradley Hendrix to close the door and give the Tigers the series win.
Auburn was led by Jones' three hits as the Tigers finished with 11 on the game, four coming on home runs. Jacobs earned his second victory of the season, allowed four runs on nine hits in five innings. Hubbard picked up his second save with a perfect ninth.
Game two started out as a pitcher's duel between Auburn's Paul Burnside and Stephen McCray from Tennessee, until the third inning that is. Cruising through the first two, Burnside walked the number nine hitter Zach Osborne and that jumpstarted the Tennessee offense. Back to back singles by Polk and Josh Liles followed to put the Vols ahead for the first time on the weekend.
Mobile native Kentrail Davis doubled to score Polk and one out later Forsythe delivered the big blow with a home run to right field. The blast gave Tennessee a 5-0 lead heading to the fourth.
Auburn managed to get on the scoreboard as Sanders led off with a double and later scored on a balk by McCray. Unfortunately the Vols answered back as Burnside allowed a run in the bottom of the inning with Michael Hurst coming on in relief.
Trailing 6-1, the Tigers threatened in the top of the sixth as Mummey reached after being hit by a pitch and moved to third on a double by Sanders, but that was as far as things would go as Bryan Morgado came in to strike out the side and keep Tennessee's lead at five. Horne added a solo home run in the bottom of the inning to extend the lead to six. That's how things would remain as Tennessee won game three.
Auburn returns to action Tuesday night at 6 p.m. when the Tigers take on Charleston Southern in the first of two mid-week games at Plainsman Park with the second coming Wednesday night.