Morris Delivers As Tigers Take Series From UK

Auburn scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to win 5-4 and take the series from Kentucky.

Auburn, Ala.--Needing one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to extend the game to extra innings and runners on first and third for the Auburn Tigers, Kentucky decided against conventional wisdom to pitch to junior first baseman Hunter Morris instead of walking him to load the bases. The result was a victory for Auburn and a series win as Morris roped a single to right field to score Justin Fradejas with the winning run in a 6-5 victory.

Trailing 5-4 going to the bottom of the seventh, Auburn got a leadoff single from senior catcher Ryan Jenkins to start things off. With pinch runner Crede Simpson on first, Justin Hargett moved him over with a sacrifice bunt.

Simpson then scored on a close play at the play following a Justin Fradejas single to center field. Freezing momentarily on the hit, Simpson slid into the plate just ahead of a strong throw from Kentucky's Keenan Wiley.

Creede Simpson slides to score the tying run.

Following a Trent Mummey pop up, Brian Fletcher reached on an infield single to set the stage for Morris and his game winner. With the option to walk Morris and face either Tony Caldwell or a pinch hitter such as Kevin Patterson or Dan Gamache, the Wildcats instead chose to pitch to Auburn's leading hitter. A choice that Jenkins said he wouldn't have made.

"I didn't understand it and then I kind of did," Jenkins said of Kentucky's decision. "He (UK reliever Nick Kennedy) wasn't a huge strike thrower. I think they were a little worried about getting Tony up there and him not being able to throw strikes. I would have walked him."

Instead they pitched to Morris and he fell behind 0-2 before getting a pitch to hit and lacing it into right field to give the Tigers the win. Winning back to back home SEC series for the first time since early in the 2008 season, Auburn improved to 27-14 overall and 10-8 in conference play with the win. Morris said you can't underestimate how important this one is for the team.

"When he got two strikes on me I was just in there looking to battle," Morris said. "I wanted to hit something on a line, get it through the infield. I got the barrel on it and it found a hole. I was afraid the right fielder was going to come in and catch it, but it fell and we won.

"It was huge," he added. "To be 10-8 instead of 9-9 in the SEC right now doesn't sound like a huge difference, but we've still got four weekends left. There is no easy weekend in this conference. For us to be able to edge out any win we can is very big."

It was made even bigger after Auburn lost the resumption of game two on Sunday 8-7 after not playing very well at all. Finding a way to get the job done and get the victory is something that coach John Pawlowski said his team has done all year.

"At the end of the day we found a way to win a ballgame and split today's doubleheader," Pawlowski said. "It wasn't easy. That first game we had a lot of opportunities and after that first game these kids were disappointed. You could tell they were down and frustrated. They kept their composure in game two. I thought Grant Dayton went out there and did a good job for us. Those are the kinds of guys you've got to have, especially in a pretty important game."

Getting the start for the Tigers in the seven-inning contest, Dayton did a solid job as he allowed five earned runs on six hits in six and one/third innings pitched. Coming on in relief, Austin Hubbard picked up the win as he pitched two/thirds of scoreless relief. The win improves his record to 4-2 on the year.

Looking for something positive the Tigers got just what the doctor ordered in the bottom of the second inning. Following two scoreless innings on the mound from Dayton, Auburn got some offense to go along with the pitching. Leading off the inning, Morris hit a towering fly ball up into the air in right field. With the wind crossing towards left field, the ball stayed on the field of play as Cory Farris made a leaping attempt to catch it at the wall. Seeing the ball on the ground, Morris raced to third with a triple.

Ryan Jenkins is greeted at the plate following his home run.

A Caldwell ground ball easily scored Morris with Auburn's first run, but it was just the start of a big inning for the Tigers. Back to back singles from Casey McElroy and Wes Gilmer brought Jenkins to the plate looking for something to drive. He got just that as he hit a liner over the right field wall for a three-run home run. It was his second home run of the season and gave Dayton a four-run lead to work with.

"I was just looking for something out over the plate that I could hit on the right side and move the runners up," Jenkins said. "The first pitch actually was a pretty good pitch to hit and I just got under it a little bit. The second one was a little bit lower and I was able to stay on it. Somehow it got through the wind and over the fence."

The lead would remain at four until the Wildcats finally put a run on the board in the top of the fourth and it came as the result of a leadoff walk. Going 3-0 on the leadoff man in two of the first three innings, Dayton did it again in the fourth and couldn't come back as he walked Chad Wright. One out later Lance Ray continued his terrorizing of the Tigers as he doubled off the monster in left field and just missed a home run. Wright scored on the play to make it 4-1 Auburn, but Dayton recovered to get out of the jam with no more damage.

In the fifth he would again face trouble as Marcus Nidiffer's ground ball to third base was booted by Gilmer. Nidiffer raced to second on the error, putting the pressure on Dayton. It was the 16th error of the season for a third baseman this season for Auburn. Once again the junior pitch came through in the clutch as he struck out a pair of wildcats and got a fly ball to keep Kentucky off the scoreboard.

Finally in the sixth inning the Wildcats did their damage against Dayton as Wright and Gunner Glad both reached to start the inning before Ray again hurt the Tigers. This time his three-run shot to right field tied the game at four and put Auburn back on its heels momentarily. That was enough for the Wildcats to take the lead the next inning as speedy Chris Bisson doubled with one out. That was the end of the line for Dayton as Sean Ray came on and threw just one pitch, hitting Wright, to bring Hubbard on. A double steal put both runners into scoring position and Kentucky would make it pay off with a sacrifice fly to take the lead momentarily. Auburn would answer back to take the win and the series with Morris' heroics in the seventh.

With the win Auburn is now three games out of first place in the Western Division after Arkansas (33-8, 13-5) lost two of three at Florida. Ole Miss (28-13) swept LSU (32-9, 11-7) to move one game ahead of the Tigers. In the overall SEC standings Auburn is currently in sixth place with a four-game lead over ninth-place Kentucky (23-17, 6-12) and Tennessee (21-20, 6-12) in the race for Hoover.

This week Auburn will face Samford Tuesday night at 6:30 at Plainsman Park before traveling to Arkansas next weekend for a three-game series against the Razorbacks.

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