Ervin Blasts Bulldogs Over Tigers

Phillip Ervin hit two home runs, including a ninth inning grand slam, to propel Samford over Auburn 8-5 Tuesday night.

Birmingham, Ala.—Samford sophomore Phillip Ervin's grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning propelled the Bulldogs to an 8-5 win over Auburn Tuesday night. Leading 5-4 going to the ninth, Samford loaded the bases off reliever Justin Bryant before Ervin's blast put the finishing touches on the third consecutive win for the Bulldogs in the series. With the loss Auburn falls to 15-10 overall and for the first time since early in the season the Tigers' pitching was to blame.

Coming into the game 4-0 on the season with a 0.96 ERA, Jon Luke Jacobs allowed four runs on seven hits in just two and one/third innings. Relievers Jay Wade, Cory Luckie and Dillon Ortman combined to allow just two hits and no runs in five and two/thirds innings as Auburn battled back to take a 5-4 lead, but Bryant's final inning put the nail in the coffin for the Tigers. Getting just one out the senior allowed three hits and four runs to get the loss.

"They got up early on us 4-0 and I thought our team battled back and we gained the lead," Coach John Pawlowski said. "We just didn't pitch very well in the early part of the game and certainly the end. Unfortunately we weren't able to hold that lead down and they put a couple of good swings together and that was the difference. It's a very disappointing loss. We have to learn from it and move forward."

At the plate Auburn was led by Garrett Cooper with three hits and Bryant added two as the Tigers finished the night with just eight hits as a team. In the end the offense wasn't the culprit on this night as the game came down to one swing. On an 0-2 count Bryant's breaking ball caught too much of the plate and Ervin made him pay.

"When you have a guy 0-2 there are so many things you can do," Pawlowski said. "You want to bury that breaking ball and unfortunately he wasn't able to do that. I know he's disappointed about it. You've got to execute pitches and in certain spots today we didn't."

After a scoreless first in which he gave up two hits, Jacobs again ran into trouble in the second as C.K. Irby and Kevin Putkonen had back-to-back singles to start the inning. Following a sacrifice bunt that moved both runners into scoring position, shortstop Austin Allison's single put Samford on the board. Second baseman Zeth Stone's sacrifice fly added the second run of the frame to make it 2-0 Bulldogs after two innings.

Dominating all season long, Jacobs couldn't make it out of the third inning on this night as Saxon Butler's single was backed up by a home run off the bat of Ervin to make it 4-0 Samford. A sophomore from Leroy that had huge games against Auburn and Alabama last season, Ervin's fourth home run of the year knocked Jacobs out of the game in favor of Wade.

After three scoreless innings Auburn finally got its offense rolling in the top of the fourth inning thanks to some help from the Bulldogs. Leading off, Cullen Wacker reached on an error by Stone and consecutive singles by Cooper and Bryant loaded the bases with nobody out.

Moved up in the lineup, third baseman Zach Alvord hit a ground ball to score Wacker and cut the deficit down to three. A Caleb Bowen ground ball failed to score a run however, bringing Dan Glevenyak up with two outs. Hitless on the weekend against LSU, the sophomore shortstop came through with a single to center field to score a pair of runs. Now trailing just 4-3, Auburn was back in business in this one.

That's how things would stand until the seventh inning when Auburn ran into trouble again. With reliever Luckie on the mound Stone singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. A walk to Butler and a wild pitch put runners on the corners with one out. That was all for Luckie as Ortman came on and quickly struck out right fielder Brandon Miller to bring Ervin back to the plate with a chance to break the game open. Doing his job, Ortman got Miller on a groundout to end the threat.

After trailing the entire game Auburn finally went on top for the first time in the eighth inning. Facing reliever Arthur Strauss, Cooper singled with one out for his second hit of the night. A Bryant fly ball out brought Alvord to the plate with the chance to put the Tigers in front. Getting something he could handle, the third baseman homered to left field to make it 5-4 Auburn and make Ortman the pitcher of record.

Getting through the eighth, Ortman turned things over to Bryant in the ninth inning to try to finish things off. It wasn't to be on this night however as Bryant hit Brad Moss with one out to bring the heart of the Samford order to the plate. A Butler single just out of the reach of Creede Simpson at second base put two runners on for the leading home run Miller.

Instead of the long ball, Miller hit a slow ground ball to Alvord at third. The sophomore hesitated just enough to allow Miller to beat out the throw and get Ervin back to the plate one more time. Bryant got ahead 0-2 in the count against the talented sophomore, but hung a breaking ball that was deposited over the wall in left field for a grand slam to give Samford the win.

Auburn returns to action this weekend as the Tigers take on Mississippi State in a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times for the weekend series are 6 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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