Cardiac Cats Pull Out Win Over Arizona State

Auburn scored four runs in the eighth to defeat #7 Arizona State 10-8 in front of 2,984 fans at Plainsman Park.

Auburn, Ala.--Consecutive doubles by Casey McElroy and Dan Gamache powered a four-run eighth inning for the 23rd-ranked Auburn Tigers and reliever Zach Blatt pitched two scoreless innings for the win as coach John Pawlowski's club overcame a two-run deficit to defeat #7 Arizona State 10-8 Sunday afternoon at Plainsman Park.

"In college baseball you never know," Pawlowski said. "No game is ever over. I thought our kids never backed down from the challenge today. I told them that we needed to compete the whole game no matter what happens. I thought they did that. We had a lot of quality at-bats in there and some guys who contributed, some of the freshmen like Blake Austin and Jay Gonzalez and Bobby Andrews. Some of those guys really played a major part in this. I thought that was the biggest difference today."

Trailing 8-5 going to the bottom of the seventh Auburn (11-5) scored a single run but missed a golden opportunity for more as the Tigers failed to score with runners on second and third and nobody out. Down two going to the eighth things looked just as bleak with the bottom of the order coming up but that wasn't the case at all.

Leading off, Gonzalez worked a walk from reliever Mitchell Lambson to get things going. One of the nation's top relief pitchers, the left-hander entered Sunday 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings pitched. Getting Caleb Bowen on a strikeout he looked to right the ship as Justin Hargett popped up for the second out of the inning but the Tigers were about to explode.

A Justin Fradejas walk brought McElroy to the plate looking for something to drive. Already with a pair of hits on the day the junior took an outside pitch the other way for a double into the corner. The hit scored both runners and brought Auburn back to even with the Sun Devils.

"The first couple of at-bats off him I was looking curveball for the first pitch and he kind of surprised me and threw fastballs," McElroy said. "On that one I was sitting on a fastball. Luckily it went barely fair."

Also with a pair of hits already in the game and three RBI, Gamache was next up and he did much of the same thing as he powered a ball to left field that Matt Newman made a leaping attempt for. Getting the ball in his glove momentarily, Newman dropped the ball as he hit the ground. McElroy scored easily from second on the double to give Auburn back the lead. Gilmer finished off the scoring with a single to give the Tigers a 10-8 advantage.

Coming on in relief for the Tigers in the eighth and mowing down the Sun Devils with a dynamic change up, Blatt gave the kind of outing he's been looking for as he pitched a scoreless ninth as well to earn the victory. He struck out three and didn't give up a hit as he sealed the win for Auburn.

"I needed that bigtime," Blatt said. "I have struggled a pretty good bit the last few outings. It was much needed and I was glad to be out there.

"That's a pitch I haven't even used this year," he said of the change up. "Coach Pawlowski had confidence in it and told me I had to get that pitch going. He called it and I threw it. It got them off me and enabled me to get ahead of them."

Auburn starter Derek Varnadore got a no-decision after getting the Tigers into the seventh inning. He allowed six runs on five hits and struck out four. Sean Ray and Ethan Wallen combined to allow a pair of runs in one inning of work.

At the plate McElroy and Gamache had six of Auburn's 14 hits as Hargett, Fradejas, Gilmer and Gonzalez all added two hits.

Dan Gamache had a huge series for the Tigers, going 7-14 with three doubles, a triple, and nine RBI.

For the third straight day it was Auburn that struck first blood against Arizona State as the Tigers scored a pair of runs on five hits in the bottom of the third inning. With one out the Tigers got singles from Hargett, Fradejas and McElroy to load the bases for Gamache. With four RBI on Saturday the Rhode Island native picked up where he left off as his single to center field scored a pair of runners. Staked to a 2-0 lead, Varnadore ran into the first serious trouble of his Auburn career in the top of the fourth.

Leading off for Arizona State (11-3), Johnny Ruettiger appeared to have made the first out of the inning with a ground ball to Kevin Patterson right on the bag at first base but it was ruled a foul ball giving him a second chance. He made it pay off with a single to right field for the first hit of the game for the Sun Devils. A Zack MacPhee single and a sacrifice bunt later and Wilson came to the plate looking for something to drive.

Hitting .327 with just one homer on the year the first baseman got all of one and hit it over the monster in left field for a three-run shot. Back to back doubles by Deven Marrero and Matt Newman made the score 4-2 as Auburn's struggles in the middle innings continued.

Auburn again got to Champlin in the bottom of the fifth as Austin was hit by a pitch to start the inning and moved to second on a single by Hargett, his second of the game. A sacrifice bunt from Fradejas moved both into scoring position for McElroy. The Auburn shortstop ripped a ball up the middle that MacPhee gloved to his right, leaped into the air, and threw to first for the out. The great play saved a run as Gamache lined out to center field to end the inning with Arizona State still up 4-3.

With Varnadore settling back in with a scoreless fifth and sixth Auburn got back to work in the bottom of the sixth at the plate. Gilmer singled to get things going and moved to second on a walk to Patterson. Following a bunt by Andrews to move the runners up, Gonzalez singled off the glove of Torrez into left field. That scored Gilmer to tie the game at four. Pinch hitter Cullen Wacker then did his job with a fly ball to center field scoring Patterson from third to make it 5-4 Auburn.

Despite allowing only five hits, all in the fourth inning, Varnadore couldn't make it out of the seventh as a walk to Newman and a hit batter brought Ray in out of the bullpen. Following a sacrifice bunt Andy Workman came to the plate hoping to continue his roll. The number nine hitter was 3-5 on the weekend and delivered again with a single to drive in the tying run.

Another walk was the end of the line for Ray as Wallen relieved him and quickly gave up a single to right field to score a pair of runners. Wilson finished off the scoring with a sacrifice fly and all of the sudden Auburn found itself down 8-5.

Missed opportunities continued to haunt the Tigers in the bottom of the seventh as Fradejas and McElroy singled to open the inning and Gamache followed with a double over the head of Ruettiger in center field. The shot scored Fradejas from second and put the tying run on second with nobody out.

That would be all for Auburn though as Gilmer laced a single that Torrez flagged on a diving play at third. He came up throwing and caught McElroy at the plate. He was tagged in a rundown for the first out. Lambson then recovered to strike out Patterson and pinch hitter Brooks Beisner to leave Auburn down two with two innings left to play, setting the stage for the huge comeback win.

Auburn will return to action Tuesday night at 7 p.m. as the Tigers face Alabama in Montgomery at the Capital City Classic at Riverwalk Stadium.

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