FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2007
Baseball drops 7-6 heartbreaker to No. 29 Auburn

Feb. 23, 2007

Box Score

MOBILE, Ala. - Despite a season-high strikeouts by junior Matt Gardner and a two-run lead heading into the eighth inning, the JU baseball team dropped a 7-6 decision to No. 29 Auburn, Friday afternoon at Stanky Field.

JU (4-6) dropped its fifth consecutive game and its second straight contest with a lead heading into the final innings.

Auburn (8-1) tallied the win with three runs in the bottom of the eighth despite finishing the game with three errors and striking out a season-high 10 times.

Trailing 6-4 in the bottom of the eighth, the Tigers answered with three runs to make it 7-6 after an RBI single up the middle by Brooks and a two-run single up the middle by Ryan Jenkins with runners on second and third and two outs.

Young (1-1) was tagged with the loss after allowing a run on two hits with a strikeout in 2/3 inning. Gardner earned the no-decision after allowing four runs on six hits with two walks and a season-high eight strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work. Junior right fielder and senior catcher Pete Clifford each drove in two runs.

Scott Shuman (2-0) earned the win after allowing three unearned runs on one hit with two walks and a strikeout in an inning of relief. Chris Dennis earned the save by hurling a perfect ninth inning. Bryan Woodall earned the no-decision after allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits with a walk and seven strikeouts in six innings. Mike Bianucci led the Tigers with two hits, including a two-run homer.

"We're in rut right now but we could have easily won some of these games," said JU head coach Terry Alexander. "We need to step up and make a big play at the right moment if we are going to end this slide."

JU jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the third when Clifford laced a two-run double to left field. Junior center fielder Kevin Ferreira drew a two-out walk before freshman third baseman Chuck Opachich beat out an infield single. Clifford followed with a drive over Bianucci's head in left field to clear the bases.

Auburn cut the deficit to 2-1 in the bottom of the third when Luke Grienke hit an RBI single to left field. With runner on first and second, Gardner struck out Bianucci looking to end the inning.

The Tiger evened the score with a sacrifice fly to center by Ross Smith after a lead-off double to right center by Andy Bennett.

The Dolphins took a 3-2 lead in the top of the fifth when junior shortstop Ben Kerr scored from third on a passed ball by catcher Dustin Spruill. Kerr led off the inning with a sharp single to left and then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior second baseman Logan James. After advancing to third on a groundout to second by Ferreira, Kerr scored on Woodall's first pitch to Opachich.

Auburn took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth when Bianucci hit a towering shot over the center field wall. Josh Donaldson led off with a flare single to right field before Bianucci gave the Tigers their first lead on a 1-1 pitch.

JU recaptured the lead, 6-4, after taking advantage of two Tigers' errors which allowed a two-run single to right by Vickers with the bases loaded and two outs. With one out, Ferreira drew a walk and was safe at second base when Robert Brooks dropped a force out attempt from shortstop Eric Skinner.

After a walk to Clifford, Ferreira scored from third after McCallister reached on a fielding error by third baseman Josh Donaldson. With two outs, Vickers lofted a single over the reach of Bennett at first base to drive in two runs.

JU will continue play in the Coca-Cola Classic in Mobile, Ala., against host South Alabama on Saturday at 2 p.m. EST.