Cardiac Kids Erase Nine Run Deficit For Victory

Auburn trailed 10-1 but came back to win on a Bobby Huddleston single in the eighth inning.

Auburn, Ala.—Down nine runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to the Virginia Cavaliers, the 20th-ranked Auburn Tigers looked like a beaten team to most observers, but not the players on the AU bench. Busting out for eight runs in the inning on the way to a 14-13 comeback victory on Friday, Auburn picked up the first-game victory in the series thanks in large part to the timely hitting of true freshman Josh Bell and the relief pitching of Cory Dueitt and Levale Speigner.

Going 3-5 on the day with four runs batted in and three runs scored, Bell was the hitting star on a day when Auburn needed every run to squeak out a victory over a pesky Virginia team. The biggest blow on the day out of the Tennessee native was a game-tying home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to put the Tigers in position to win the game late. Dueitt and Speigner combined to allow three runs in five innings, with Speigner pitching two perfect innings to pick up the save.

"What can you say," Auburn coach Steve Renfroe said following the win. "We've talked about the character of this team and I really think it's true. A lot of teams just go ahead and cave in and they fought to give us a chance to get to our relievers and we were running out of guys. That's the only reason Steven Register wasn't in there because we were swinging it so well at the end and we had the last at-bat."

Josh Bell had three hits on the day including his first collegiate home run.

The game was over and done with in the minds of a few fans, but the majority stayed at Plainsman Park and cheered the Tigers on to victory. Moran said the mood of the dugout was upbeat as the Tigers came to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning down nine runs and the victory felt even better because of the circumstances.

"It feels real good," Moran said. "It shows that we just come out to play every day, come out to win every game. You just take it one inning at a time when you're down that far. We just got the runs and hits when we needed them and got the pitching too and we came back and won. We were just taking it one run at a time. If you're down nine you try to make it eight. If you're down eight you try to make it seven. We were just trying to get one run at a time."

Trailing 10-1 after making just about every conceivable mistake both, offensively and defensively the first four and a half innings to let the visiting Cavaliers take command, Auburn had an inning for the ages in the bottom of the fifth. Things started innocently enough as Tug Hulett reached on an error by the Virginia second baseman. Junior third baseman Scott Schade followed with a double to the wall in left-center that easily scored Hulett to make it 10-2.

Following a Chuck Jeroloman fielder's choice that cut down Schade at second, back-to-back walks to Clete Thomas and Sean Gamble loaded the bases for junior center fielder Jovan Moran.

Just like he's done his entire career, the speedy Gamble came through in the clutch with a liner off the green monster in left field for a double that sent home two runs to make the score 10-4 with just one out. After a Karl Ammonite walk and a Bobby Huddleston strikeout, Bell delivered with a single to right after battling back from a 1-2 count that scored two to make it 10-6.

Hulett came back to the plate and singled to left to score Ammonite from third. Following a Schade walk, Jeroloman hit a chopper up the middle that Virginia shortstop Mark Reynolds got to but couldn't make a play on. Fumbling the ball, he allowed two runs to score and just like that it was 10-9 Cavaliers with Auburn on the comeback trail.

Chuck Jeroloman had two runs batted in on Friday.

It appeared to be all for nothing as Virginia touched up Dueitt for three runs in the top of the fifth inning on four hits, including two doubles. Now down by four runs, Auburn would cut into the lead in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Moran beat out a high hopper to first base and slid in head first just in front of the throw to pitcher Andrew Dobies from first baseman Joe Koshansky. One out later Bobby Huddleston would pick up the first of his two hits on the day with a single to center that pushed Moran to third. Bell then singled to left field to score Moran to make it 13-10 Virginia.

Hulett continued the scoring trend in the inning with a single to left field that scored Huddleston from second base. Schade reached on a fielder's choice next to load the bases for Jeroloman, who walked on five pitches allowing Bell to score and cut the lead to just one heading to the sixth.

Remarkably, neither team scored in the sixth and Dueitt kept the Cavaliers off the board in the seventh giving the Tigers a chance to tie the game or take the lead in the bottom half. Bell would take care of that with one swing of the bat. Catching a breaking ball perfectly, he led off the inning and lofted one high and deep over the Green Monster for a solo home run that made the score 13-13 after seven innings of play. Energized by his bomb, the Tigers took the field in the eighth with the taste of victory in their mouths.

"I was just trying to get the ball in play and get a RBI," Bell said following the game. "He threw it right where I wanted to hit it. I got a good swing on the bat and luckily it went out. I was out front a lot during the game so I was just trying to stay back and drive the ball the other way. He just hung one in there and I got it."

Speigner came on in the eighth and shut down Virginia to give Auburn a shot to take the lead in the bottom half of the inning. Gamble led things off with a walk to bring Moran to the plate with a chance to do some damage. He wasn't able to deliver as he hit into a fielder's choice that retired Gamble at second base. After Ammonite was intentionally walked to pitch to Huddleston, who was hitting just .111 for the season when he stepped to the plate, the time was right for a big hit. Getting jammed, he dropped one into short center field to score Moran with the go-ahead run. Speigner would slam the door on Virginia to earn his first save of the season as Auburn moves to 4-1 on the year while the Cavaliers fall to 0-1.

"That's a credit to our hitters," Speigner said of the comeback. "They were just fighting for everything that they could possibly get and battling for each run. We started off shaky as a pitching staff and started shaky as a defense. The sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings Cory came in and quieted their bats down a little bit and I just fed off the momentum of this crowd (2,441). It was jumping by the time I got in there."

Auburn and Virginia will square off again on Saturday at 2 p.m. when sophomore Arnold Hughey takes the mound against freshman left-hander Mike Ballard for the Cavaliers. Sunday will be up in the air for the Tigers as Colby Paxton is taking the weekend off because of soreness in his pitching arm. He should be fine soon, but is staying off the mound for precautionary concerns, Auburn coaches say. Sunday's game time has been moved up to 1 p.m. because of travel plans for the Virginia team.

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