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April 13, 2013

Tigers win series, fail to sweep the Bulldogs

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Auburn clinched the series with an 8-4 win over Georgia in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader, but failed to sweep the Bulldogs after dropping the final game 7-1.

The offense shined for Auburn in Game 1, and starter Michael O'Neal quieted Georgia's bats for most of his seven innings of work, but Game 2 was the opposite.

Auburn (22-14, 5-10) managed just one run on three hits against the Bulldogs (13-24, 3-12), and the Georgia hitters tattooed Auburn's pitching for seven runs in the first four innings.

"We're in this series Game 1, and had a lot of positive things. Really did some exciting things, was excited about that," head coach John Pawlowski said. "Then the second game, we didn't get off to a good start. When you don't get off to a good start it makes it tough. We certainly didn't help ourselves offensively. When you put those things together, not a lot of opportunities for us to win in Game 2."

The Tigers badly needed the sweep, mainly because it was a rare winnable series in the dominant SEC, but couldn't take advantage.

"We got a lot of work to do. Unfortunately we weren't able to do that today," Pawlowski said.

Despite winning back-to-back series, Auburn finds itself 5-10 at the halfway mark of SEC play with a tough uphill climb remaining.

"First two games were good, but you have to look at the positives," Ryan Tella said. "Took two out of a good team, now we just got to come back this week, just focus up better than we did today."

On the bright side for the Tigers, only one of their next three SEC opponents - Mississippi State at 7-7 - has at least a.500 record in conference play. Auburn will need to take advantage of its softer schedule to climb out of the standings cellar before traveling to Gainesville for a three-game series with the surging Gators and finishing the season with a three-game home series with Arkansas.

Georgia catcher Brett DeLoach hit a three-run homer in the first inning of Game 2, and the Bulldogs never trailed. They added two runs in the second and two more in the fourth, opening up a 7-1 lead.

Auburn starter Will Kendall (0-4) went 3 1/3 innings, giving up five earned runs on four hits.

Cullen Wacker doubled in the first, and that led to Ryan Tella scoring Auburn's only run on a fielder's choice. Auburn's only other hits were a Mitchell Self single in the fifth inning and a Kody Ortman single in the ninth inning.

Tella finished the series 7-for-12 with five runs and two walks.

"We kind of got complacent as hitters, and you can't do that in the game of baseball, ever," Cullen Wacker said. "I felt like we were so high on ourselves and confident going up there each and every at-bat, taking our bats from the first game up there to the second game. You can't do that in the game of baseball."

Auburn found itself in an unfamiliar position in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader: in possession of an early lead.

Coming into the game, Auburn had trailed in 17 of its last 18 games. But the Tigers inflicted damage early behind a more confident lineup of Auburn hitters and finished off Georgia for an 8-4 win.

"Come out after the second and it's a 3-0 lead, you're in cruise control almost," said Michael O'Neal, who got his seventh win of the season. "It's just like throw strike one, get out one, just prevent the big innings. Don't let them kill the ball."

Auburn's offense was dominant throughout the game and got home runs from Cullen Wacker and Damek Tomscha.

Jordan Ebert's RBI-single in the second inning extended his hitting streak to 12 games.

Auburn steps out of conference for a game at Samford on Tuesday before heading to Starkville for a three-game series with Mississippi State starting Thursday, April 18.

"Challenges. Every game's challenge," Pawlowski said. "We've gotta figure out what we're going to do on Tuesday pitching-wise, and then we play Thursday-Friday-Saturday, a day earlier this week, so lots of work to do."



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