Thomas Leads Tigers To Victory Over UVA

Auburn will go for the sweep against Virginia after winning 5-3 on Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.--Freshman right fielder Clete Thomas had three hits and scored the eventual game-winning run in the seventh inning as the 20th-ranked Auburn Tigers defeated the Virginia Cavaliers 5-3 Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 2,751 at Plainsman Park.

Senior pitcher Levale Speigner earned his second win in two days after pitching just one and two/thirds innings of relief while Steven Register earned the save with two perfect innings of relief. The sophomore said following the game the crowd was unbelievable for the second day in a row and helped the team earn the victory.

"It felt good out there," Register said. "The crowd was outstanding with all the noise they were making. I just fed off that. I felt good out there. We've been really surprised. Today was like a SEC crowd. There were a lot of people here and they were making a lot of noise. We just hope that they keep supporting us and hopefully we'll go out there and do the job."

With noted author John Grisham in the stands watching his son play for Virginia, Auburn had little time to kill in this game after falling way behind in Friday's game. In the top of the first Thomas walked to start things off and reached second base when Sean Gamble got to first on an error by Virginia shortstop Mark Reynolds. Following a sacrifice bunt by Javon Moran that moved both up a base, Karl Ammonite flied out to short left field to bring freshman catcher Josh Bell to the plate. Friday night's hitting star, Bell was intentionally walked to load the bases for Tug Hulett.

Clete Thomas is hitting .333 on the season from his lead off spot.

Virginia true freshman pitcher Mike Ballard couldn't handle the pressure of the situation as he walked Hulett to push across the game's first run. Scott Schade then singled to right field to score Gamble from third and give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. Designated hitter Kyle Bohm would finish the inning by grounding into a fielder's choice. With a lead, Auburn turned things over to Arnold Hughey to keep the pesky Cavaliers at bay.

Mixing in a solid slider with a sharp fastball, the sophomore kept Virginia off the scoreboard until the sixth inning. Allowing eight hits and two earned runs on 79 pitches, he allowed the Tigers to build a 3-0 lead, an edge that would disappear in the sixth. Up 2-0 in the third, Bell made his presence felt when he bombed a solo home run for the second-straight day, this time deep off the scoreboard in left-center field with one out to put Auburn up 3-0.

"We've got to get better on the mound early in the game," Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said following the victory. "But that will come. I thought Arnie was good, he just ran out of gas. I thought he pitched very well. That was a very good start. We just have to get consistent out of the gate and I think we'll have a solid club."

That lead would diminish in the sixth as left fielder Jordan Ghrist hit a solo home run of his own with one out to get the Cavaliers on the board. Designated hitter Miguel Luina followed with a single to push Hughey from the game and bring Speigner into action. After moving to second on a Bell error behind the plate, Luina and Joe Koshansky, who reached on a walk, would both score on a Kyle Werman triple to tie the game at three. Put in a tough spot once again, the Tigers would respond.

Thomas would again be the catalyst in the seventh inning as he lined a single up the middle leading off the inning. Moving to second on a sacrifice bunt by Gamble, he scored the go-ahead and eventual game-winning run just moments later when Moran lined a single up the middle off Virginia reliever Matt Avery. Auburn would add another base runner in the inning, but a sliding catch by Cavalier left fielder Matt Sweet put an end to the Tiger rally.

Steven Register earned his second save of the season on Saturday.

Auburn would get some insurance in the eighth inning--once again thanks to Thomas. Schade led off the inning by earning a walk from Avery. Bohm delivered as he moved Schade to second on a sacrifice bunt putting the junior in scoring position with just one out. Shortstop Chuck Jeroloman popped out to the catcher for the second out of the inning but alert on the base paths, Schade broke for the uncovered third base and made it easily. That would prove to be big as he scored easily on a Thomas single to left field, something that probably wouldn't have been the case if he had remained on second. Because of his heads up play, Auburn had a two-run lead to turn over to Register in the ninth. Firing fastballs with a mix of sliders, he mowed down the Cavaliers as the Tigers earned the victory and series win.

"Scott Schade's base running was a big league play," Renfroe said. "Because you don't score with two outs on a ball hit in front of their left fielder with Shady running. Him getting that 90-feet gave us that extra run."

Auburn will send true freshman Chris Dennis to the mound Sunday against the Cavaliers. He is 0-0 this season and has allowed just one hit in two innings of work. Virginia's starter is listed as to be announced. The first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, up 30-minutes because of travel concerns for the Cavaliers.

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