It was Auburn's first Friday night win in a month and breaks a six-game losing streak in the SEC for coach John Pawlowski's club. With the loss Kentucky falls to 16-15 overall and 2-8 in league play. Getting timely hitting and clutch pitching from reliever Zach Blatt, Pawlowski said it was a big win for his team.
"I thought our team battled back," Pawlowski said. "They grinded out this win tonight. We kept battling. Zach Blatt, what a tremendous job. I know he got a couple of balls up late, but he picked us up. I'm just happy for the team. We needed a win. Just happy to see these guys finally get a W tonight."
In addition to McElroy, senior Kevin Patterson also had four hits with a pair of RBI while Tony Caldwell had a hit and three RBI with Wes Gilmer adding two runs batted in. McElroy said it was a night when Auburn's offense just came together and his big night was a huge part of things.
"We've kind of been struggling with guys on base lately and I think it just took one hit to get us over the hump or at least me over the hump," McElroy said. "This is huge for our confidence. We've had a tough time lately, but this win should really help us. Hopefully we can keep going up from here."
While the offense gets the glory and reliever Ethan Wallen got the win, the victory would not have been possible without the pitching of reliever Zach Blatt. Coming on in the second, the Opelika native allowed six hits and three runs and struck out five in five and one/third innings to give the Tigers a chance for the comeback win.
Auburn got the scoring started on Friday as freshman Bobby Andrews reached on a bunt single to lead off the game and moved to second on a Cullen Wacker sacrifice bunt. McElroy delivered his first big hit of the night to score Andrews as he singled up the middle for the RBI. Following a walk to Dan Gamache, Caldwell's single scored McElroy for the two-run Auburn lead.
Making his second consecutive Friday night start, Auburn junior Andrew Morris would have a rough beginning as he allowed consecutive singles to open the bottom of the first to bring Braden Kapteyn to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive he quickly put Kentucky on top 3-2 with one swing of the bat.
In the second Morris got the first hitter he faced before hitting the number nine hitter on a 3-0 count. That would be all for him as Blatt came on and walked Chad Wright and allowed a single to load the bases for Kapteyn. His sacrifice fly gave him four RBI early in the game and put the Wildcats in front by two.
The Tigers began to chip away in the third as Wacker singled and later scored on a Caldwell groundout. In the fourth Auburn brought things back to even on one swing of the bat as Patterson drilled a solo homer, his second in as many games.
Now tied at four Auburn continued to put the pressure on Kentucky starter Alex Meyer in the sixth inning as Patterson singled for his third hit of the night. One out later a walk to Justin Fradejas moved him into scoring position. Using his speed, Andrews successfully bunted for the second time on the night to load the bases with one out.
Following a Wacker ground ball that cut down Patterson at the plate, McElroy delivered a rarity for the Tigers with two outs, a hit. Getting a pitch away he singled to left field to score both Fradejas and Andrews. Now with a 6-4 lead Blatt went back to work in the bottom of the sixth.
After allowing a leadoff triple, Blatt recovered to leave the runner stranded at third and keep Auburn in the lead. He wouldn't be as fortunate in the seventh however. With one out Kapteyn continued his big night with a single to bring J.T. Riddle to the plate. He quickly tied things up with a homer to right field, but Kentucky wasn't done. With two outs Luke Maile did the same with his third blast of the year. It gave the Wildcats the lead back 7-6 going to the eighth inning.
Auburn wouldn't go away quietly however as Justin Hargett's bunt single and a Fradejas single on an 0-2 pitch brought Andrews to the plate to face Kentucky closer Mike Kazmarek in a bunt situation. Already with two bunt singles on the night, this time the freshman couldn't get the job done as he struck out.
Pinch hitting, Creede Simpson lifted a pop up to right field, but Kentucky's Lucas Witt misplayed the ball allowing all runners to be safe and load the bases for McElroy. For the third time on the night the junior took the ball the other way for a double. The hit scored two and put Auburn back in front 8-7. It was his 11th double of the year and his fourth and fifth RBI of the night.
A walk to Gamache loaded the bases for Caldwell and after getting behind 1-2 the senior catcher battled to work a walk and push across Simpson for the two-run Auburn lead. Gilmer then singled over the head of the Kentucky first baseman to score two more for the 11-7 Tigers' lead. Patterson's fourth hit of the night, a single to right field, finished off the scoring for Auburn as they took a five-run lead into the final two chances for Kentucky.
With a five run advantage in the ninth, Wallen couldn't get out of the inning as he allowed two runs without getting an out before freshman Dillon Ortman came in to finish things off by getting three consecutive hitters to seal the victory.
Auburn will send junior Derek Varnadore (3-1, 3.38 ERA) to the mound on Saturday against freshman lefty Corey Littrell (4-1, 4.82) for Kentucky. The first pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. CT.