March 19, 2010
ATHENS, Ga. - Justin Bryant had four hits, including two home runs, and drove in eight RBI while Cory Luckie was masterful on the mound as Auburn steam rolled its way to a 20-3 conference season-opening win over Georgia at Foley Field on Friday night. Auburn pounded Georgia pitching for 22 hits, four of which were home runs, to claim its' first win over Georgia and in Athens since the 2005 series opener between the two clubs.
"We came up with some big hits and some big two-out hits. You have one of those games where guys swing the bats well and play good defense," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "It's so tough to win on the road. Every team has talent and ability and to get the first one on the road is an important step for us."
Bryant, who entered the game with just three extra-base hits and eight RBI in his first 15 games, singled in a run in the third, hit a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double in the sixth and a pair of two-run home runs in the eighth and ninth innings as Auburn scored 20 runs in a SEC game for the first time since a 21-11 win over Arkansas in 2000.
"I had been struggling lately at the plate so I came in early today and worked on my getting my hands inside stuff and it really helped out in the end," Bryant said. "I was seeing the ball well tonight, and everyone else on the team was too, and we just had a good night all together."
Hunter Morris also had a big day at the plate, hitting his fifth and sixth home runs of the season in back-to-back at bats in the sixth and seventh innings. His sixth-inning shot went three-quarters of the way up kudzu hill in right, driving in two runs, and his seventh-inning three-run blast went to the left of the scoreboard in right-center, upping his total to 29 career home runs. Add in his fourth-inning double and a ninth-inning single and the junior first baseman finished the night with four hits and five RBI, only to be overshadowed by Bryant offensively.
With the offense sizzling, Luckie (1-0) just needed to hit his spots consistently to push Auburn to the win. Making his first SEC start since April 26, 2008 at Alabama, the lefty showed deft command despite hitting a pair of speed bumps in the first and second innings by way of two two-out solo home runs. The sophomore was otherwise brilliant on the mound from there on out, scattering just three more hits while striking out seven, his highest strikeout total in eight career SEC starts. After a two-out single in the fifth, he retired the last seven hitters he faced, collecting his first SEC win since March 22, 2008 against Kentucky.
"I can't say enough about the guys on the offensive side. Pitching with a 10-run lead is a nice luxury," Luckie said. "You have to really be tough after giving up those two home runs. It's hard but I just kept battling. Any SEC team can do that to you, make a mistake and they will hit it out. I had to really cut down on my mistakes and I made it through seven innings."
"The difference for us to gain some momentum was Cory Luckie. I thought he went out there and did a great job. He made a couple of mistakes early in the game but he kept after it, threw three pitches for strikes down in the zone and he gave us a chance to win," Pawlowski said. "On a Friday night in the SEC on the road, that's a pretty good performance for him."
Dan Gamache finished the night with three hits, a walk, three RBI and four runs scored as he and Bryant combined to drive in 10 runs and score six.
Auburn's 22 hits were its most in a conference game since it had 22 in a 14-10 win over Kentucky in 2003.
The 17-run differential was Auburn's largest margin of victory in a SEC game since a 23-1 win over Georgia in 1994.
Auburn imprvoed to 12-5, 1-0 SEC while Georgia dropped to 8-10, 0-1 SEC.
Michael Palazzone (3-2) took the loss for Georgia, allowing Auburn's first five runs on six hits and a walk in 2 1/3 innings.
The two teams agreed prior to the first pitch of Friday's game to move up the start time of Sunday's game an hour to 1pm ET due to the forecast for rain as the day went on.
Auburn 20, Georgia 3 (Mar 19, 2010 at Athens, GA)
Auburn.............. 032 105 324 - 20 22 2 (12-5, 1-0 SEC)
Georgia............. 110 000 001 - 3 6 2 (8-10, 0-1 SEC)
Win-Cory Luckie(1-0) Loss-Michael Palazzone(3-2) T-2:46 A-3521
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