KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Grant Dayton was simply dominating on Friday night, at one point sitting down 17 Tennessee hitters in a row, as Auburn (12-4, 1-0 SEC) ran its winning streak to 10 games with a 4-2 win at Tennessee on Friday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for both clubs.
Dayton allowed a hit in the first and second innings and then retired 17 straight hitters before he surrendered a walk to Cody Grisham in the eighth with one down. The sophomore lefty surrendered a total of three hits in eight shutout innings to move to 2-1 on the season.
“We were rolling a little bit. Tony (Caldwell) was catching well and the ump was calling good so everything was going great,” Dayton said. “I was able to locate three different pitches, which I usually can’t do. The further the game went, the more comfortable I was on the mound.”
Dayton had to work through trouble in the first as Tennessee was able to load the bases on a hit and a pair of walks but with two down, Dayton coaxed a groundout out of eight-hole hitter Zach Osborne to get out of the inning unscathed. From there on out it was three-up, three-down for Tennessee for five straight innings until Grisham drew the full count walk to snap Dayton’s impressive string.
“The first inning was pretty tough. They loaded the bases on me and we were able to get the last out and I was thankful to get out of the first without any runs scoring,” Dayton said. “After that it settled down a little bit. They are a good team and we had to make pitches and make plays and we were able to do that.”
With Dayton rolling his way to an eight strike out night, Auburn used its early-striking offense to build a 4-0 lead after five, scoring single runs in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings.
“You look at the job that Grant Dayton did, and what a tremendous job it was,” Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. “He did a good job of keeping their leadoff hitter off base and threw pitches for strikes. This was a good win for us on the road to open the conference season.”
Auburn loaded the bases on three base hits by the middle of the order to start the second inning but could manage just a single run out of it to take a 1-0 lead. Hunter Morris led off with a single that got past Tennessee first baseman Cody Hawn and moved to third on Brian Fletcher’s double to center. A Kevin Patterson dribbler down the third base line loaded the bases but Hernandez was able to whiff Tony Caldwell and get Casey McElroy to ground into a run-scoring fielder’s choice before he caught McElroy leaning off first, picking the freshman off third to end the inning.
Mummey’s scooted a one-out, infield single to short in the third inning to extend his hitting streak to a personal-best 15 games and would score later in the inning on Ben Jones’ single to left to put Auburn up, 2-0.
A pair of solo home runs in the fourth and fifth innings gave Dayton and Auburn a 4-0 lead after four-and-a-half innings. Hunter Morris led off the fourth with his third home run of the year, a bomb over the Todd Helton jersey on the wall in center, before Sanders’ poke into The Porch in left tied the junior with Mummey for the team lead in homers with eight.
Tennessee (7-7, 0-1 SEC) managed to score a pair of unearned runs off of Austin Hubbard in the ninth as Jeff Lockwood knocked a two-run home run to left-center after Mike Hornsby reached on a fielding error by McElroy with two down in the inning.
The game was far from over at that point. With the rain coming down hard, Hubbard struggled with his grip on the ball and mud in his cleats on the mound. Zach Osborne reached on a Caldwell throwing error and Cody Brown singled through the left side but Hubbard was able to get leadoff man Josh Liles to pop up to Morris at first to end the game.
Nick Hernandez (1-1) was the hard-luck loser for Tennessee as the left hander allowed four runs on eight hits, striking out nine but was not aided by an offense that could not generate any runs until the ninth inning.
Auburn’s win was its first in the SEC season-opener since the 2003 season when it defeated Tennessee, 3-2, in Auburn.
Of Auburn’s 35 home runs this season, 21 of them have been solo shots and the 35 home runs ranks in a three-way tie for 24th in school history.
Auburn’s 10-game winning streak is its longest since winning 10 in a row from Feb. 22-March 9, 2004.
The two teams will return to the diamond for game two of the series on Saturday at 3pm CT. Redshirt freshman Jon Luke Jacobs (1-1, 3.57) is scheduled to throw for Auburn while Tennessee will send junior Stephen McCray (2-0, 3.21) to the hill.