Game one saw the Tigers get terrific pitching from Eric Brandon in a starting role and relievers Cory Dueitt and Steven Register were also outstanding as Auburn squeaked out a 3-2 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers in dramatic fashion. Brandon allowed one run on five hits in six innings while Dueitt and Register combined to allow one run on three hits with Register earning his first victory of the season.
"I felt real good out there," Brandon said. "After I came out at North Carolina I worked in the bullpen on just getting my front foot down and not try to overthrow. Today I went out there and pitched and not try to overthrow and throw it by everybody. It worked out pretty well. I didn't want to come out but I turned it over to our bullpen. Our bullpen has done it all year for us and they did it again."
The Tigers struck first in the opening contest as Sean Gamble reached on an infield single and advanced to second base when Volunteer starter Ben Riley threw away a pick-off attempt at first base. Following a Javon Moran strikeout, Bobby Huddleston drilled a long double into right-center field to make it 1-0 Auburn after just one inning of play.
Brandon was nearly perfect in the first five innings Saturday as he allowed just three hits to Tennessee. Showing good control of his fastball and slider, the junior kept the Tigers ahead despite not being able to put up any runs on Riley. Tennessee would finally get something going in the sixth when first baseman Michael Rivera doubled to right field with nobody out. Catcher Javi Herrera followed that with a single through the right side to score Rivera and tie the game. That would be all for the Vols as Brandon came back to retire the next three hitters to end the inning at 1-1. Brandon would make way for Dueitt in the seventh but not before the Tigers took the lead back from the Vols.
Getting on base has become something of a trademark for Chuck Jeroloman and he did just that when he earned a walk from Riley to open the bottom of the sixth. After moving to second on a sacrifice bunt by Clete Thomas, he scored just moments later when Gamble doubled down the left field line on a ball placed perfectly over the third baseman's head. Auburn couldn't break the game open though as Moran flew out to right field for the second out of the inning and then Josh Bell flew out deep to left field following a Huddleston walk. Leading 2-1, Dueitt was sent in to hold the lead.
Pitching just 2/3 of an inning, the junior turned things over to Register with a runner on second base and the closer delivered by getting a ground ball to end the inning. He wouldn't be so lucky in the eighth as Herrera lifted a blast just over the outstretched arm of Thomas in right field for a solo home run. The game was still tied in the bottom of the ninth, leaving just enough time for more Auburn drama.
Leading off the inning, Huddleston worked the count to 3-2 before being hit by a pitch to get the leadoff runner on board for the Tigers. Expecting the bunt, the Vols rushed the plate on the first pitch, forcing Bell to bunt the ball foul when trying to sacrifice pinch runner Doug Vines to second base. Waiting on the same thing to happen again, Bell swung away on the next pitch, driving a single through the left side to move Vines into scoring position. Trying to move both runners over, Tug Hulett put down a perfect bunt that pitcher Dusty Johnson couldn't make a play on.
With the bases loaded, Scott Schade came to the plate hoping to put the ball in play against a drawn-in Tennessee infield. He did just that when he drilled a grounder through the left side to score Vines with the game winner. The win gave the Tigers a record of 17-4 overall as they prepared to face the Vols in game two with Colby Paxton on the mound.
"It was a big win that first one," Schade said. "The guys ahead of me did a great job. I just got a curveball and I put it in play. The infield was up and that helped a little bit. It was big to get that first win."
Game two was a tale of contrasts for both teams. Early on neither could get anything going as Paxton and Tennessee starter Luke Hochevar kept their opponents off balance but not without some struggles. For Paxton his problem was throwing strikes early. After giving up a one out single to Brian Cleveland in the second inning, Paxton got in more trouble when he gave up another single one out later to put runners on first and second with two outs. It was then that the junior couldn't find the strike zone. Walking two hitters on just eight pitches, he walked home the first run of the game to give Tennessee the early lead.
Auburn's action came in the fourth inning. Gamble once again was in the middle of things when he walked to lead off the inning. Moran dribbled a grounder up the middle next that Tennessee was unable to handle. With runners on first and second with no outs, Huddleston was hoping to continue his RBI tear but he was robbed when his liner was snared by third baseman Nick Crowe. Bell reached on a Crowe error to score Gamble with the first of five Auburn runs in the inning.
Hulett continued his hot day when he doubled deep to left field to drive home Moran with the second run of the inning. That brought Karl Amonite to the plate. A power hitter by reputation when he arrived on the Plains, he hadn't hit a home run since Auburn's season opener, but he put an end to that when he drove a fastball deep over the right-center field wall for a three-run shot. Leading 5-1, Auburn appeared to be in good shape but that wouldn't be the case.
Tennessee's comeback began in the sixth with Cleveland again starting a small rally. After singling to left, he advanced to second on a wild pitch by Paxton. Following a strikeout of Alex Suarez, Paxton would be replaced by Speigner. He quickly struck out Walter Sevilla only to see pinch hitter Jeremy Cabbage single home Suarez to make it 5-2 Tigers.
The Vols would break the game open in the next two innings as they scored four in the sixth and three in the seventh to take a 9-5 lead. Perhaps the biggest play of the game occurred in the seventh with reliever Jim Miksis in for the Tigers. Trailing just 6-5 with one out in the inning and the bases loaded, Miksis got Cleveland to fly out to medium depth center field. Catching the ball, Moran came up throwing but had no chance because Jordan Czarniecki left third base early on the tag. Going unnoticed by the umps, the run scored on what would have been the final out of the inning. Jimbo Watson finished the scoring with a two-run single to put the game out of reach. The Tigers added a single run in the eighth when Hulett doubled with two outs to get into scoring position. Amonite finished off his best day as a Tiger with a single to right field to score Hulett but it would be too little too late as the Tigers fell in game two.