Earlier in the day the Tigers beat the home team College of Charleston to set up the opportunity for the weekend sweep and despite some middle inning struggles Auburn played some of its best baseball of the young season. Coach John Pawlowski said it was nice to see his team respond to adversity and playing on the road to find a way to put it all together.
"We came in here with the mindset that we needed to play well this weekend," Pawlowski said. "It was important for our mental state, for our confidence level. I thought we did that. When you play 18 innings of baseball with a break in between I thought our concentration and focus was good throughout the day. Sometimes it tends to wander but our group was very good in the dugout. I was pleased with that."
Struggling with consistency on offense much of the season Auburn put it together in that department against the Hilltoppers as the Tigers totaled 17 hits on the way to the win. In addition to Patterson, Justin Hargett had three hits for Auburn while Creede Simpson, Wes Gilmer and Justin Fradejas chipped in with a pair of hits each in the win.
After sitting out the first game of the day, Patterson came out swinging in the nightcap. A veteran that has seen it all in his career, he said the way the Tigers responded was big for this team heading into another tough week of play.
"I was seeing it pretty good," Patterson said. "I got to rest up in the first game and get my mind off things. I had a tough Friday night. It was good to square some balls up and get the first one out of the season.
"More importantly, coming out here and getting the sweep was huge for our team," he added. "It should get our confidence going."
On the mound starter Slade Smith allowed six earned runs on 11 hits in four and one/third innings to get the no-decision. Reliever Andrew Morris failed to record an out, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits. However Ray was a different story. Entering the game in a difficult situation, Ray delivered in the clutch to get the win.
"It was 8-8 when I came in," Ray said. "I was just focused on getting the guys out at the plate. Every pitcher wants to go out there and when they come in they want to finish the game. Our whole staff wants to do that. I'm glad I got the opportunity today and was able to execute."
Western Kentucky jumped out to the early lead on Saturday night as Kes Carter's single scored Jared Andreoli in the first inning off Smith. Andreoli reached on an error by McElroy to start the game and came around to score the unearned run.
After a scoreless first inning Auburn exploded in the top of the second to jump on the Hilltoppers in grand fashion. Leading off the inning, Dan Gamache singled to bring Patterson to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive the senior launched his first home run of the season to center field to put the Tigers ahead 2-1.
Auburn wasn't done though as a Cullen Wacker walk followed by singles from catcher Caleb Bowen and Fradejas loaded the bases with still nobody out and Hargett at the plate. A wild pitch scored Wacker from third for a two-run lead for the Tigers. One out later McElroy continued his strong weekend with a single that scored two for a 5-1 Auburn lead.
Chris Bullard and Ivan Hartle had RBI singles for Western Kentucky in the bottom of the second to cut Auburn's lead back to just two but the Tigers would respond by getting those two runs back in the fourth.
Starting things off with a walk, Simpson moved to second on a McElroy ground ball and scored moments later on a single by third baseman Gilmer. Following a fielder's choice from Gamache that retired Gilmer at second Patterson again delivered, this time with a double to right field. Gamache easily scored on the play to give Smith a 7-3 advantage.
After the Tigers escaped damage with a pair of WKU runners on in the bottom of the fourth, Auburn built onto its lead in the top of the fifth. With one out Hargett singled to bring Simpson to the plate. The Auburn native ripped a double to right-center that easily scored Hargett from first to put Auburn up by five runs.
Escaping several jams in the first four innings, Smith wouldn't be as fortunate in the fifth and neither would the Tigers. A leadoff walk and a pair of singles would be the end of the line for Smith as Morris came on in relief with the bases loaded and one out. Facing pinch hitter Jordan Cessna, Morris got what he was looking for with a ground ball but McElroy's second error of the game allowed two runs to score and made it 8-5 Auburn.
Things would go from bad to worse as a single by Casey Dykes and a double by the number nine hitter Bullard scored three more for the Hilltoppers to tie the game at eight. Ray came in to get the final two outs of the fifth but the damage was done as Auburn came to bat in the sixth with the score 8-8. In the first five innings the two teams combined for 16 runs on 25 hits.
Auburn answered back in the top of the sixth as Patterson and Wacker had singles with one out and a walk to pinch hitter Tony Caldwell loaded the bases for Fradejas. A pop up brought Hargett to the plate where the senior quickly fell behind 0-2 before lacing a single to left field to drive in a pair of runs. Simpson followed with a double off the wall in left to score two more for the 12-8 Auburn lead.
With Ray cruising into the ninth inning the Tigers set out for some insurance in the top half as a two-out walk by McElroy brought Gilmer to the plate with a chance to add to the lead. Doing just that the senior ripped a double that brought McElroy around to score for the five-run Auburn advantage. Ray finished things off in the ninth to earn his first win of the year.
Auburn returns to action for a two-game series in the midweek against Memphis on Tuesday and Wednesday. Game times for the two games are 6 p.m. both days at Plainsman Park. This coming weekend Auburn will welcome Arizona State for a three-game series.