Two In Eighth Leads Auburn Over Eagles 8-6

Auburn won a second straight contest as the Tigers won their final non-conference game of the season.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn broke open a tie game with two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and junior closer Austin Hubbard shut the door on a Georgia Southern rally in the ninth as the Tigers defeated the Eagles 8-6 Tuesday night at Plainsman Park.

With the victory Auburn improves to 29-24 while Georgia Southern falls to 35-15.

In a game where neither team could take control, it came down to Auburn making the play when it needed it most, something that has been a problem the last month of the season.

Tied at six in the bottom of the eighth inning, center fielder Trent Mummey walked to lead things off and moved to second on a groundout by Hunter Morris.

Left fielder Brian Fletcher followed with a single up the middle to score Mummey and give Auburn the lead. Shortstop Casey McElroy then hit a blast to deep left field just off the glove of center fielder Ty Wright. The double allowed Fletcher to score and make it 8-6 Auburn.

Things were far from over though as reliever Sean Ray gave up a single to start the ninth and gave way to Hubbard. Pitching three and one/third innings of scoreless relief, Ray left having run his total scoreless innings streak to 13 2/3 innings in five appearances.

Called on to close things out, Hubbard got some bad luck when Wright's ground ball went off the glove of third baseman Dan Gamache to put runners on first and second.

Following a sacrifice bunt, Hubbard faced hitting Georgia Southern star Griffin Benedict. Hitting .417 on the season, the catcher couldn't handle Hubbard as he struck out for out number two. Eric Phillips followed with the same result giving Hubbard his 12th save of the season. Coach John Pawlowski said the win was big for his team after the performances of Ray and Hubbard.

"It was a good win for the Tigers tonight," Pawlowski said. "Georgia Southern is a very good club with a good RPI and a very good record. I think it's great for our confidence to come away with a win. It was a hard-fought game. We were up 6-2 and they battled back. We did some good things on the mound again today. I thought Sean Ray did another outstanding job for us and Hub got us out of trouble in the ninth."

On the mound the story was Ray. Used very little in his career until the last two weekends, the sophomore from Virginia Beach, Va., has become a strong member of Auburn's bullpen. He says for him it has been a matter of hard work and confidence.

"It's just a comfort thing for me," Ray said. "That and throwing bullpens with Coach Fox (Scott Foxhall) and coach P (Pawlowski). That helps out a lot. They work on little things here or there that seem to help. When I came in against Ole Miss I walked two guys and came back to get three shutout innings. That boosted by confidence a lot. Kentucky helped out."

Sean Ray

Georgia Southern got on the board first with a single run off Auburn starter Ty Kelley, the first earned run allowed by the sophomore in 10 innings. Auburn would answer back in the bottom of the first though as a one out walk to Mummey and a stolen base put him in scoring position. That was good news for Morris as his single to left field tied the game at one. With two outs Fletcher also walked, setting the table for McElroy. He lifted a pitch down the left field line that dropped in for a double. Morris scored on the play, but Fletcher was gunned down at the plate to make it 2-1 Tigers after one inning of play.

Ben Jones doubles for the Tigers.

The Eagles added another single run in the second inning and it could have been worse as a double and back-to-back singles had tied the game at two and left runners on first and second with just one out. Facing Wright, Kelley got a sharp ground ball right back at the mound. Fielding his position well, he turned and threw to McElroy at second and his throw to Morris at first completed the double play to end the inning.

Auburn would once again respond in the second as Tony Caldwell singled to lead off the inning and one out later moved to second on Gamache single. A walk to Hargett loaded the bases before a wild pitch gave Auburn the lead. Another walk, this one to Morris with two outs, again loaded the bases for senior Ben Jones. Getting a pitch to pull, he doubled to right field to score two runs and put Auburn in front 5-2. A pair of walks led to the fourth run of the inning to push the lead to four heading to the third.

Shuman would come on for Kelley and pitch two scoreless innings before getting touched for four runs of his own in the fifth. Number nine hitter Roman Grimaldi singled to start the inning and moved to third when Wright's ground ball went through Hargett's legs and into right field. Following a strikeout, Benedict, the son of former Atlanta Braves' catcher Bruce Benedict, doubled to right field to score two. Another double, this one by Phillips, scored Benedict but Phillips was gunned down at third for the second out of the inning.

Ray came on for Scott Shuman and gave up a single and a walk before A.J. Wirnsberger singled home the tying run. With the game now tied at six, Auburn had a chance to break things open in the sixth as the Tigers loaded the bases with one out, but Jones lined out to second base for the second out and Fletcher struck out looking to end the threat. The sophomore would get his revenge though as his single in the eighth drove home the eventual game-winner for the Tigers.

Auburn will return to action Thursday as the Tigers take on Alabama in a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times for the series are 6 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday and 3 p.m. on Saturday.

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