AU Squeaks By JSU, Turns Attention To Rebels

Tony Caldwell's two-run single gave the Tigers a 9-7 win over Jacksonville State.

Auburn, Ala.--Tony Caldwell's one-out single with the bases loaded scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to break open a tie game and closer Austin Hubbard shut the door in the ninth inning as the Auburn Tigers defeated Jacksonville State 9-7 Tuesday night at Plainsman Park. Despite a rough night with two errors and five wild pitches, the 16th-ranked Tigers (36-17) did just enough to get the win and that's good enough for coach John Pawlowski.

"It's kind of like a trap game for us in a sense that you come off a big weekend against Tennessee," Pawlowski said. "I walked into the locker room prior to the game and the guys were all talking about the Wild Wild West, trying to find a way to win the West. I said guys we've got to make sure we stay focused, and they did. They found a way to win today. When all is said and done that's the most important thing."

Tied at seven in the bottom of the eighth inning, Auburn was looking for something good to happen after allowing three unearned runs to Jacksonville State in the last two innings to allow the Gamecocks to pull even. With one out, Trent Mummey drilled a double to right field to get the Auburn machine rolling.

Brian Fletcher was then hit by a pitch to bring Hunter Morris to the plate. Already with three hits on the night, including a home run, Morris lined one to left field that JSU's Todd Cunningham dropped to load the bases for the pinch hitter Caldwell. Facing a sidewinder Todd Hornsby, Caldwell hit a bloop single into left field that scored two runs and put the Tigers ahead for good.

"I just got the opportunity and really wanted to come through in the clutch since I was coming off the bench," Caldwell said. "I felt really good seeing the ball. I just got lucky. I was just happy to put the ball in play. With one out I was trying to drive the ball to the outfield. Once I got two strikes I just spread out and battled and got lucky I guess."

With a two-run lead Hubbard came on and slammed the door on the Gamecocks in the ninth inning as he struck out one and only threw eight pitches in earning his eighth save of the season.

"Being a closer and short reliever he could pitch in three games on the weekend or not pitch at all," Pawlowski said. "We were going to try to get him in and it ended up being a perfect situation with us scoring and getting ahead. We put him in there to finish the deal."

Mummey and the Tigers didn't waste any time getting on the board Tuesday night as the junior center fielder hit the first pitch he saw over the right field wall with one out in the first inning. It was his 14th of the season and gave Auburn the early lead. The Tigers would extend that lead in the second inning as Casey McElroy walked to lead things off and catcher Ryan Jenkins followed with a single to left field to move the runner to third with nobody out.

Jacksonville State pitcher Bill Henke then uncorked a wild pitch to score McElroy and move Jenkins to second base. Dan Gamache continued his hot hitting with a single to left field to score Jenkins for a 3-0 lead. A sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch followed to move Gamache to third base and Fradejas scored him with another bunt to give the Tigers a four-run advantage.

It only took one inning for the lead to disappear though as reliever Ty Kelley came on after two scoreless innings from starter Slade Smith and couldn't get the job done. With one out a walk put the Columbus native in trouble as Bert Smith followed with a double to the gap to put the Gamecocks on the board. Following a flyout, a walk to Andrew Edge put a pair of runners on. A Jake Sharrock single and Daniel Anderson double tied the game at four before Bradley Hendrix came on to close out the inning.

Tied at 4-4, Auburn answered back as Morris singled and later scored on a double by McElroy. Gamache's second RBI single of the game put the Tigers up 6-4. From that point forward things turned into a pitching clinic as Hendrix and Sean Ray combined to pitch three scoreless innings before turning it over to Zach Blatt.

In the seventh Auburn's defense would fail the Tigers in a big way. With two outs and a runner on first Blatt appeared to be out of the inning as Anderson hit a lazy fly ball to Mummey in center field. Misplaying the ball momentarily before appearing to settle back under it, Mummey's feet slipped and the ball bounced off his glove and towards the center field wall. By the time Fletcher could reach it Anderson was able to race around and score. The two-run error tied the game and left the Tigers in some trouble.

Morris momentarily put the Tigers on top as he led off the seventh with a solo homer. It was his 20th of the season and leaves him just two off the school record held by Todd Faulkner. Once again Auburn's defense would fail them as a Morris error with a runner on allowed the tying run to score in the top of the eighth. Now tied once again at seven, Auburn would find a way to pull out the win and stay hot heading into the final weekend of the SEC regular season.

Morris led the way with three hits for the Tigers while Mummey, Jenkins and Gamache had two each. They combined for seven of Auburn's 11 hits on the night. Adamson had three hits to lead Jacksonville State (26-24).

Auburn will return to action Thursday night as the Tigers travel to Ole Miss to face the 16th-ranked Rebels in a three-game series with first place in the SEC West on the line.

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