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Bianucci's Walk-Off Blast Propels Tigers over Pride, 9-8

Feb. 17, 2006

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AUBURN, Ala. -

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Mike Biannucci hit two home runs, including a walk-off, three-run blast in the tenth inning, to cap an Auburn come-from-behind 9-8 win over Hofstra at Plainsman Park on Friday night. Bianucci had hit a two-run shot in the eighth inning that tied the game at 6-6.

"It obviously was an impressive debut for Mike (Bianucci) tonight," AU Head Coach Tom Slater said. "He's an explosive hitter and he was certainly ready to get out here and play. I know he was anxious and he came through big for us tonight."

Bianucci (4-for-5, 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI) led an Auburn offense that had a hit in every inning but the third and amassed seven doubles in their successful comeback from six runs down after three innings.

"There were big-time nerves early but some of the senior guys grabbed me and told me to relax and settle down before my first at-bat and that really helped me out," Bianucci said. "None of the guys gave up the whole game and the team was all-in the whole game."

With the Tigers (3-3) down two runs in the bottom of the 10th, Hofstra brought Jeff Denlea (0-1) into the game to pitch. He allowed a leadoff double to Andy Bennett (3-for-5, 2B, 2 R, RBI) to start the inning and then a single to pinch hitter Josh Stapleton, bring Bianucci to the plate. Bianucci then launched his game-winning home run over the Green Monster in left on Denlea's first offering for the victory.



The Tigers threatened in the opening frame with two runners on base and only one out but could not push a run across the plate until the fourth inning. Bennett doubled to lead off the fourth and eventually scored on a groundout from Bianucci.

The Tigers added three more in the fifth to bring the Tigers within two runs at 6-4. Josh Donaldson (2-for-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI) doubled in Tyler Johnstone (1-for-4, 2B, R) and Bruce Edwards (1-for-5, 2B, R) with a shot off of the left field wall before Bennett doubled to left center, scoring Donaldson.

In the bottom of the eighth, Bianucci returned to the plate and hit a two-run home run over the right field wall to tie the game at 6-6. The eighth inning home run was Bianucci's first collegiate home run and it came in his first game since returning from a lower leg injury.

Auburn spent most of the game catching up after starter Chris Dennis struggled early. He surrendered six runs on four hits and walked two in 2.2 innings before being replaced by Clarence Nicely.

The Pride first got to Dennis in the second when Anthony Sarno (3-for-5, 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBI) hit a solo home run over the right field wall. An inning later Ricky Caputo doubled in two runs, Sarno tripled in two more and Andrew Campana singled in another off of Nicely to give Hofstra a 6-0 lead.

The Auburn bullpen held strong for six innings with Nicely, Johhny Thompson and Peter Wiggins all having solid showings before Sarno hit a two-run shot that gave the Pride a 8-6 lead in the tenth inning.

Wiggins (2-0) earned the win in relief.

Auburn's seven doubles was the most for the Tigers in a game since Mar. 23, 2003 vs. Kentucky.

Tonight's win over Hofstra was the second straight game in which Auburn beat Hofstra on a walk-off home run. On Feb. 6, 2005, Clete Thomas hit a walk-off home run to beat the Pride 6-5.

The Tigers and the Pride will get together for the second game of the series Saturday at Plainsman Park. First pitch has been moved to 2 p.m. and will see the Tigers' Brett Butts (0-1) battle Hofstra's David Huth (0-0) from the mound.

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