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Clutch Pitching Helps Tigers Take Game And Series From Gators With 5-4 Win On Sunday

April 23, 2006

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Auburn received clutch pitching performances from starter Chris Dennis and the bullpen and the Tigers capitalized on some sloppy defensive play by Florida early as the Tigers defeated Florida, 5-4, to win the series from the Gators on Sunday at McKethan Stadium.

"Chris Dennis gave us a great start. We were able to extend him into the sixth and then (Paul) Burnside was able to clean up the sixth after Chris got into a little bit of trouble," AU Coach Tom Slater said. "Then Johnny Thompson cleaned up the seventh for us so that we could turn the ball over to Luke (Greinke)."

Dennis was nearly flawless on the mound in running his record to 3-3 on the year, surrendering just one run on five hits in 5.1 innings, striking out four. The lone run came off of the bat of Matt LaPorta, who hit a solo home run in the top of the sixth.

"I felt really good today and it really helped that the guys jumped on Florida's pitchers early and gave me a nice lead, which allowed me to go out and throw strikes with confidence," Dennis said. "They played great defense behind me and its easy to pitch when the guys give you a lead like that."

Dennis, who won back-to-back starts for the first time in his career, gave way to Burnside in the sixth, who entered with two runners on and one out but managed to get out of a bases loaded jam to run his streak to 18.0 innings of SEC play without allowing an earned run.



Thompson also came on in a big spot for the Tigers in the bottom of the seventh, entering with two men on and none out and LaPorta at the plate. Thompson induced LaPorta to line into a double play and then struckout Chris Petrie to thwart the UF scoring threat.

Auburn had scored three unearned runs in the first as Tyler Johnstone (1-for-5, 2B) and Jeff Boutwell each reached on errors to lead off the game. An RBI double by Mike Bianucci (1-for-4, 2B) pushed the first run across and then Andy Bennett's fielder's choice brought Boutwell home. Luke Greinke's groundout to third closed the scoring for the inning.

The Tigers (20-23, 8-10) had made it 4-0 in the top of the second as Bruce Edwards led off with a walk and scored on Johnstone's double.

Josh Donaldson (3-for-4, HR) padded the AU lead in the top of the eighth as he took Florida closer Darren O'Day's second offering and deposited it over the wall in left to put the Tigers up 5-1.

"We had talked before his at bat about hunting for a slider because Josh said that O'Day had owned him, and he got one. He did a great job, stayed on it and was able to get it out of here," Slater said.

Florida (24-20, 6-12) became the first team to get to Luke Greinke after the eighth inning as AU's closer surrendered three runs on four hits in his first inning of work to bring the score to 5-4 before settling in in the ninth and striking out Brian Leclerc to end the game.

"The great thing about Luke Greinke is he is going to keep filling up the zone for you. He is not afraid of contact and he realized that they were hitting his fastball today, so he went to the changeup and the slider and he was able to get them out," Slater said.

The win gave Auburn its first series win over the Gators since 2003 and its first in Gainesville since 1997.

The series victory was also Auburn's first away from Plainsman Park this season.

UF starter Chas Spottswood allowed four runs, only one of which was earned, in 2.0 innings to fall to 1-2 on the season.

The Tigers return home for a single game on Tuesday with Mercer. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. CT between the Tigers and Bears.

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