Dayton Dominant As Tigers Tame Tide

Junior pitcher Grant Dayton allowed just one run in seven innings as Auburn defeated Alabama 7-1 in Tuscaloosa.

Tuscaloosa, Ala.--Junior Grant Dayton was magnificent as he pitched seven innings, allowing just seven hits and one run, to get his third-straight Sunday victory as the Tigers defeated Alabama 7-1. Auburn hit three home runs and pounded out 12 hits as they improved to 18-10 overall and 5-4 in SEC with the win.

"That was probably one of the most complete games we've had in a while," coach John Pawlowski said. "You can't say enough about the job Grant Dayton has done. He threw strikes. I don't believe he had any walks. He was in zone all day.

"The other thing I was impressed with was our defense," he added. "We did some really good things. (Brian) Fletcher made a great play. Justin Fradejas runs a ball down in the gap. Hunter Morris makes a nice pick at first base. We had some real positive things."

Improving to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in SEC play, Dayton was strong from the start until he was thrown out of the game for hitting a batter to start the eighth inning. Reliever Michael Hurst came on and retired all six batters he faced to seal the win for the Tigers, but Dayton was the story on Sunday as he helped Auburn avoid the sweep and stay above .500 in the league.

"I just tried to pitch to contact," Dayton said. "I knew that was the way I could stay in the game for a while is to let them hit it. They hit some balls, but our defense was outstanding today. If you can trust your fielders, which I always do, it's always great feeling.

"Our hitting, our defense, everything was outstanding today," he added. "I thought we played solid all the way around. I can't thank the fielders and hitters enough for what they did, especially behind me."

Balance in the lineup is a strength for Auburn in 2010 and on Sunday that proved to be the difference as Creede Simpson led the way with three hits and a home run while Casey McElroy and Kevin Patterson both added two hits. Pawlowski said it was good to see some guys come up big in the clutch on Sunday.

"We finally got some two-out hits," Pawlowski said. "We scored three or four runs with two outs. I thought that was a big part of what we did today."

Winning on Sunday, Auburn stays within two games of first place LSU (23-4, 7-2) in the West with Arkansas (22-6, 6-3) scoring fourth in the ninth to hold off Kentucky. Ole Miss lost two of three at home to previously winless Tennessee to fall into a tie with Auburn at 5-4 in league play while MSU is last in the division at 3-6.

In the East, South Carolina leads at 22-6, 7-2 with Florida (20-7, 6-3) and Vanderbilt (24-6, 5-4) the only other teams with more than two conference wins in the division.

With Dayton on the mound Auburn was looking to give him some offensive help early and that's exactly what third baseman Justin Bryant did in the second as his solo home run to left field put the Tigers on the board first. They added to the lead in the second and once again it came from the long ball as Creede Simpson's solo shot to right field made it 2-0 Auburn in the third.

Keeping Alabama scoreless through three, Dayton got more support in the fourth as a one-out single from Tony Caldwell and a stolen base put the pressure on the Crimson Tide. A Casey McElroy single put runners on the corners for Bryant and the junior college transfer came through with a fly ball to center field. Caldwell scored on the play to give Bryant his second RBI and made the score 3-0 Tigers.

That's how things would remain until the fifth when Auburn extended the lead. Simpson led off with a single and moved to second on a stolen base as the Tigers continued to be aggressive. A bunt single by Justin Hargett left runners on the corners with nobody out, but it appeared to be another case of missed opportunities as Justin Fradejas and Brian Fletcher both failed to push a run across, bringing Hunter Morris to the plate.

Struggling with runners in scoring position recently, Morris came through this time with a double to score Hargett and move Fletcher around to third base. Caldwell then reached on an error by Alabama shortstop Josh Rutledge. That allowed Fletcher to score and make it a five-run lead for Auburn.

With one swing of the bat Kevin Patterson opened the lead up even more as his solo homer in the sixth made it 6-0 before Alabama would finally get to Dayton in the seventh. Leading things off, Jake Smith singled and Jon Kelton followed with a double to break up the shutout for Dayton. The Huntsville native recovered though as he got the next three Alabama hitters to keep the 6-1 advantage.

Auburn got the run back in the eighth as McElroy reached on a one-out single and stole second base for the fourth stolen base of the day for the Tigers. It proved to be big as, following a Bryant line out, Patterson singled home the sophomore to make it a six-run lead once again.

Dayton's day came to a crashing halt in the top of the eighth inning as he hit Taylor Dugas with a breaking ball and was immediately tossed from the game along with Pawlowski. The same thing happened on Saturday with Alabama pitcher David Head getting thrown out after hitting Patterson despite having a sizeable lead.

Hurst came on to keep Alabama scoreless though as he retired Rutledge, Ross Wilson and Clay Jones to keep the lead at 7-1. Hurst finished things off in the ninth inning to get the win and keep the Tigers in the hunt in the SEC West.

Auburn will return to action Tuesday night at 6:30 when the Tigers face Georgia State at Plainsman Park. Sophomore Dexter Price is expected to get the start for the Tigers against the Panthers.

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