The sweep was the first for an Auburn team in SEC play since the second weekend of the 2003 season at Kentucky. That is a span of 68 series in conference action without winning all three games.
Auburn coach John Pawlowski said it's huge for his team to get off on the right foot like it did this weekend at Georgia and much of that was due to the way his team pitched.
"I told the guys every game is so important," Pawlowski said. "I challenged them today and told them they had to be ready to play because we had a chance to get off to a really good start.
"Grant Dayton was the difference today," Pawlowski said. "He went out and gave us seven quality innings with one walk and put the ball in play. Offensively, you look at a number of different guys, but Hunter Morris definitely comes to mind for what he was able to do today. A lot of positive things this weekend at Georgia.
"I think the biggest thing is a confidence level," he added. "For a lot of the new guys that have not seen SEC play and are unfamiliar with going on the road, I think it gives them a sense that we can play with anybody. When you pitch like that you give yourself a chance and some good things can happen."
Not since the opening SEC series of 2009 has Dayton gotten in the win column against a league team, but on Sunday the Huntsville native was exceptional as he allowed just three runs on eight hits in seven innings to improve his record this season to 2-1. Dayton said while he threw well, much of the credit on Sunday goes to Auburn's offense.
"It was big for me for a couple of reasons," Dayton said about Sunday's start. "I haven't been going long in games and I wanted to go out there and give ourselves a chance to win. The way we've been hitting it's hard not to win. I was just thankful we were able to have big innings and put up a lot of runs."
A happy Grant Dayton leaves the field Sunday after finishing off the Bulldogs.
After Justin Bryant's Friday night of two home runs and eight RBI, it's hard to imagine that anyone could top that this weekend, but Morris did on Sunday. Entering the game with a pair of home runs in the first two games, the first baseman had the game of a lifetime for some as he was 5-6 with two home runs, including a grand slam and nine RBI.
Morris said the team was focused on finishing the series on Sunday and it showed on the field.
"For a program to be struggling the way that we have, to come out and have an opportunity to do something that hasn't been done since 2003, for us to come out and get a win today was a huge way for us to start this season," Morris said. "We've had our ups and downs already, but to have as much as success as we did this weekend and to get off on the right foot was huge."
Scoreless through two innings, Georgia finally got to Dayton in the bottom of the third inning to take the early lead. Number eight hitter Levi Hyams doubled to left field to get things started for the Bulldogs and a bunt single by Todd Hankins put runners on the corners with nobody out and the top of the order up for Georgia.
The junior looked like he would escape the trouble as he got leadoff man Zach Cone on a liner to Casey McElroy for the first out and struck out Peter Verdin for out number two to bring Colby May to the plate. Getting ahead in the count, Dayton appeared to strike out May twice looking, but home plate umpire Richie Tallent had other ideas as he called both pitches balls to keep the bat-bat alive.
That gave May life and his ground ball to McElroy at shortstop was thrown low to Morris at first base. The error allowed both runners to score and make it 2-0 Georgia. A single and walk followed to load the bases, but Dayton recovered to get a groundout from Zach Taylor to end the inning.
Quiet the first three innings against Georgia starter Jeff Walters, Auburn's offense finally got untracked in the fourth. Morris got it going with a sharp single through the right side and quickly moved to third on Brian Fletcher's second double of the day. A walk to McElroy loaded the bases with still nobody out for the Tigers. Right fielder Tony Caldwell's sacrifice fly put the Tigers on the board, but it was just the start of things for Auburn in the fourth.
Third baseman Dan Gamache followed with a sharp ground ball to second base. Trying to make the throw to Hyams on the bag at second, Hankins threw low and the ball got away for an error. Fletcher scored on the play to tie the game at two. A walk to Justin Bryant loaded the bases and Ryan Jenkins walked as well to score McElroy and give Auburn the lead at 3-2.
Reliever Blake Dieterich came on for the Bulldogs, but wouldn't fare well either as Justin Hargett singled to right to score two more for the Tigers. Another walk, this one to Creede Simpson, loaded the bases for Morris and he came through with a single to left-center. The liner scored two more and gave Dayton a 7-2 advantage to work with on a damp Sunday afternoon.
The lead grew even more in the sixth as the Tigers added five runs to their total. With one out Jenkins singled and back-to-back walks to Hargett and Simpson loaded the bases for Morris. David Perno had seen enough for the Bulldogs as he brought on hard-throwing right-hander Cecil Tanner to face the Auburn first baseman. It didn't pay off as Morris lifted a fly ball deep to right field that hit off the top of the wall and bounced over for a grand slam.
It was Morris' seventh home run of the season and the 30th of his career to move him into the Top 10 in Auburn history. One out later McElroy walked and moved to third on consecutive wild pitches. He then scored on a Gamache infield single to make the score 12-2 Tigers.
Georgia finally got on the board again in the bottom of the sixth on a solo home run by Carson Schilling, but Dayton wouldn't wilt as he got two fly ball outs to Simpson in center field to complete six innings of work. Offensively Auburn was far from done on this day as in the seventh Morris added his second home run of the day, this one a three-run shot to right field, to make it a 15-3 Auburn lead. A solo blast by Caldwell in the eighth pushed the lead to 13 for the Tigers and they would add three more in the ninth before reliever Sean Ray finished things off to secure the 19-3 win.
At the plate Morris led the way for the Tigers while Caldwell added three hits and three RBI. Hargett and Fletcher added two hits each as Auburn finished with 15 hits while earning an additional 12 walks from Georgia pitching. Schilling and Hyams added three hits each for the Bulldogs in the loss.
Auburn will again be on the road this coming week as the Tigers take on Samford at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in Birmingham before traveling to Montgomery on Wednesday to face Alabama in a make-up of the rainout game at Riverwalk Stadium. The first pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday.