No. 1 Yellow Jackets Too Much For Baseball Tigers

Auburn held Georgia Tech to just seven hits Tuesday night, but three were home runs on the way to a 4-2 Yellow Jacket victory.

Auburn, Ala.--The sixth-largest crowd in Auburn baseball history (4,409) got its money's worth and more Tuesday night as the top-ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (15-0) defeated the 10th-ranked Tigers (16-4) 4-2 behind the strength of three home runs in the first five innings off Auburn starter Arnold Hughey.

True freshman Micah Owings, a second-round draft choice last spring of the Colorado Rockies, earned the win for Georgia Tech by allowing just one run on five hits in six innings. He also did some damage at the plate with a solo home run in the fifth inning to give the Yellow Jackets a 4-0 lead. Auburn came back to make a valiant run, but fell short in its final tune-up before SEC play opens this weekend against Tennessee at Plainsman Park.

Hughey, coming off a rough outing Friday night against North Carolina, pitched better but allowed four runs on four hits in five innings while striking out six Yellow Jacket hitters. The bullpen duo of Levale Speigner and Cory Dueitt continued its dominance by pitching the last four innings and holding Georgia Tech scoreless on three hits.

Clete Thomas, Tug Hulett and Bobby Huddleston all had two hits for the Tigers, Huddleston with two RBI doubles to account for both of Auburn's runs on the night. Despite the outcome, the senior catcher/designated hitter said the experience was great for this team as it heads into conference play beginning Friday night.

Arnold Hughey had a solid outing for the Tigers Tuesday night.

"It was an eye-opener for everybody," Huddleston said. "They were a quality team, top-to-bottom a great ball club. He was a good pitcher. The big crowd got us ready to open up with Tennessee on Friday and know what to expect for the next 10 weeks.

"It was a blast. I'm telling you, there is nothing better than to come our here with 4,409 people screaming and yelling. They had it like a football game out here earlier when they were yelling ‘Auburn' and ‘Tigers.' It was a blast out here. You can't beat it and you can't expect anything more."

Early on the Yellow Jackets gave a glimpse of why they are the nation's top-ranked team. Another second-round Major League draft choice, this time by the Atlanta Braves, put Georgia Tech on the board early. With one out in the first inning shortstop Tyler Greene golfed a Hughey pitch deep over the green monster in left field to put the visitors on the board 1-0 and give them a lead they would never relinquish.

The long ball would again haunt Hughey in the fourth inning. With one out in the inning, Jeremy Slayden singled to right center to bring big Matt Murton to the plate. A powerful hitter with 20 career home runs, he drilled a 1-1 fastball deep over the wall in left field to make it 3-0 Yellow Jackets.

Auburn had a perfect opportunity to get one run back in the bottom half of the inning when Javon Moran doubled into the bullpen in right field with one out bringing Huddleston to the plate. He couldn't deliver this time, striking out to get to Karl Amonite. Owings quickly got two strikes on the junior first baseman but decided to try to catch Moran napping. That almost proved to be a disastrous mistake as he threw the ball into center field to put Moran on the move. Rounding third and preparing to score easily, Moran slipped on the wet grass and had to scamper back to third base. Amonite struck out on the next pitch to snuff out the rally with Auburn trailing 3-0.

Owings would account for Georgia Tech's final run of the game in the fifth inning when he bombed a full-count fastball over the K Korner in right field for an opposite field home run. Blasting his fifth of the season to give the Yellow Jackets a four-run lead, Owings went back out on the mound to hold the now comfortable lead.

The Tigers finally got on the board against Owings in the sixth inning with Clete Thomas getting things started when he dropped a hit down the left field line and legged into second base with a double. Sean Gamble was next and he lifted a medium depth fly ball into center field. Showing his speed, Thomas tagged on the catch and slid into third to move within 90 feet of home plate.

Moran couldn't move Thomas home as he hit a fly out to left field for the second out of the inning. It was up to Huddleston to come through and the senior delivered once again, this time drilling a breaking ball off the left field wall for a double to score Thomas and give the Tigers another runner in scoring position. Amonite then came to the plate hoping to bring Auburn closer, but didn't get a pitch to hit and walked to bring Josh Bell up with a chance to tie the game with one swing. It didn't happen this time around as Bell popped out to first to end the threat with the Tigers trailing 4-1.

Sean Gamble takes a swing against Owings.

With Speigner and Dueitt holding the Yellow Jackets at bay, Auburn came back and closed the gap on Georgia Tech in the eighth inning. With his seventh hit in his last nine at-bats, Thomas doubled to right center off reliever Brian Burks to put the Tigers' comeback train in motion once again. The true freshman made a young mistake when Gamble hit a slow roller back to Burks on the mound. Breaking for third, he was caught in a rundown and caught for the first out of the inning.

Following a Moran fly out to right field, Huddleston doubled home his second run of the night when he blasted a 2-1 pitch off the base of the left field fence. That would bring on Yellow Jacket closer Jeff Watchko, who would strike out Amonite for the final out of the inning. The Tigers would threaten in the ninth, but a leadoff double by Bell would be for naught as Watchko earned his third save of the season by striking out Chuck Jeroloman to end the game.

"The first guy was overpowering early," Renfroe said of Owings. "Arnie made three mistakes a paid for it. Their mistakes were doubles that we hit and our mistakes were home runs. That's the difference in the game. We played solid and you look at the game, that was a baseball game. Their guy's stuff early was overpowering, but once we got into it we had some big hits. They just had quality pitching and great defense."

The Tigers will begin SEC play Friday night at 6:30 CST when they play the first of three games against the Tennessee Volunteers at Plainsman Park. Saturday's game is scheduled for 3 p.m. while Sunday is set for 1:30 p.m.. Auburn and Georgia Tech will play the final game of the two-game, home-and-home next Tuesday night in Atlanta. The game will be televised live on College Sports Southeast.

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