Tigers Wash Away Cavaliers For Series Sweep

Auburn waited out two long rain delays before earning a baseball sweep against Virginia this weekend.

Auburn, Ala.--Senior catcher Bobby Huddleston hit two home runs nearly five hours apart in 20th-ranked Auburn's 7-5 victory over Virginia on Sunday, but he wasn't the hero on the day. The grounds crew deserves to take a bow as they kept the field playable through two rain delays totaling three hours and 22 minutes.

That allowed the Tigers to come back from a two-run deficit in the sixth inning on the way to the three-game series sweep against the Cavaliers. Huddleston said the guys who work on the field deserve kudos for giving the Tigers a chance.

"Our field crew did a great job," Huddleston said. "They spent forever squeegying the water off and that really helped us get this ‘W' because if not we would have taken a loss."

Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe echoed Huddleston's sentiments following the game. Walking around the field Sunday following the second delay, Renfroe said both coaches and umpires agreed that the tarp would not be placed on the field a third time. That meant Auburn had one inning to work with in the bottom of the sixth if they wanted to take the lead in case of more rain.

"I told the team that they really needed to thank them," Renfroe said of the grounds crew. "That's what one of those things where they were here early. That's a long day for them. They are putting in 10-12 hours of work and it was greatly appreciated. They gave us a chance to play. We're still down and still have to do some work. We're down two and came back and did it in a short period of time. You have to credit these kids for being ready to play after all they went through."

With one out in the sixth inning Josh Bell singled to right field to get the rally started for Auburn. Second baseman Tug Hulett continued his hot hitting when he ripped a single to left field to give the Tigers a runner in scoring position with one out. Scott Schade was up next and the third baseman got plunked by reliever Greg Hansard to load the bases for true freshman Clete Thomas just one out later.

Living up to his early season play, Thomas lined a single into center field to score Bell and Hulett to tie the game. Center fielder Chris Sweet tried to gun down Hulett at the plate and when the throw sailed into the infield Schade broke for third and Thomas for second. Cutting the throw, first baseman Joe Koshansky threw the ball wildly to third allowing Schade to score and Thomas to advance to third base. Sean Gamble would strike out to end the inning, but Auburn had taken its first lead of the game at 6-5.

Auburn baseball administrative assistant Scott Duval helps to get rid of the water on the outfield at Plainsman Park.

Renfroe then turned the game over to Steven Register. In his second straight day of work, the sophomore dominated the Cavaliers on Sunday. Throwing the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to pick up his third save of the season, Register threw just 39 pitches and didn't allow a hit while striking out three batters. With Register coasting on the mound, Huddleston gave Auburn some insurance in the seventh inning when he banged his second home run of the game off the scoreboard in left-center field to put Auburn ahead 7-5. After getting a day off on Saturday to sort through an early season slump of sorts, Huddleston said he did some early work with Renfroe before Sunday's game that paid off in the end.

"He had a couple of suggestions that really helped me out," Huddleston said. "He told me some things I wasn't noticing and he saw. He helped me just click and I was lucky and got two balls out of here today."

Bobby Huddleston

True freshman Chris Dennis didn't fare well in the first starting assignment of his Auburn career. Right fielder Chris Sweet got things rolling for the Cavaliers with one out in the first inning when he reached on a bunt single that Dennis couldn't handle because of the wet ground. Shortstop Mark Reynolds was up next and he doubled to right to drive home Sweet and keep the pressure on the freshman. After stealing third, Reynolds would score one batter later when Mark Zimmerman singled up the middle.

Leading 2-0 Virginia turned the ball over to starter Chris Gale. After a scoreless first inning, Auburn scratched for one run in the second inning when Huddleston ripped a Gale fastball deep over the right field wall for his first home run of the season. Now down just 2-1 things looked promising for Auburn until the skies opened up for the first time with Hulett on first after earning a walk. A delay of 1:40 kept both the teams and the fans on hold, but finally the game got back underway at 3:15 Sunday afternoon.

Because of the wait, Auburn kept Dennis out of the game and brought another true freshman, Daniel Forrer, into the mix. Showing a good mixture of fastballs and sliders, the left-hander got through the third unscathed, but wouldn't be as fortunate in the fourth inning. With one out in the inning and ahead 1-2 on the hitter, Forrer threw what appeared to be strike three, but the umpire had other ideas. The freshman lost him and eventually it led to a big inning.

Number nine hitter Kyle Werman singled to right field to put the pressure on and Forrer helped the rally by hitting the next batter to load the bases. Sweet came through as he doubled to left field to drive home two runs and make it 4-1 Virginia. A Reynolds sacrifice fly would end the Cavalier scoring in the inning, but not before they had taken a four-run lead on the Tigers.

That would remain the score until the fifth inning when Auburn would begin to chip away at the visitors. Back-to-back singles by Schade and Chuck Jeroloman got the Tigers off to a roaring start. Thomas bunted both runners into scoring position to set Gamble up with an RBI opportunity and the sophomore delivered when he drilled a single into center field to score both runners and make it 5-3 heading to the sixth inning. The hit gave Gamble at least one hit in 26 of his last 27 games dating back to last season.

Junior Cory Dueitt came on to pitch for the Tigers in the sixth and did his job by mowing down the Cavaliers in order with a steady rain falling. Unfortunately, the rain fell just enough to bring the tarps out for another rain delay. One hour and 42 minutes later the action got back underway and it was all Tigers from that moment forward on the way to the series sweep.

Auburn will play South Alabama Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Plainsman Park in what is always a tough test for the Tigers. Junior Eric Brandon will get the start after allowing six hits and seven runs in just two innings of work Friday afternoon against Virginia. He will face a Jaguar squad that is 0-4 after losing to San Diego State the first game of the season and then being swept by the USC Trojans.

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