Senior outfielder Cullen Wacker was 4-5 with four RBI while reliever Conner Kendrick pitched three scoreless innings to close out the win for Coach John Pawlowski's club. The victory improves the Tigers to 7-3 on the season and was a big one for Auburn following the Friday collapse.
"It was very important for us," Pawlowski says. "The mindset of this team was that we needed to find ways to score and continue to find ways to put teams away. They jumped back into it, but Conner Kendrick did a great job for us.
"I'm really proud of our team. Those are tough elements to play in," Pawlowski adds. "You look at the errors and walks and it was a tough element, but our guys did a good job. I'm proud of them."
Building an early 8-1 lead, Auburn had to hold on to win the game as the Tigers scored six runs in the eighth inning after Eastern Illinois cut the lead to one with six runs in three innings in the middle of the game. Led by Wacker's offensive attack Auburn was able to win going away however.
"I was just feeling good," Wacker says. "I had a good BP before the game and was able to come out and execute swings. I was able to handle pitches in the zone.
"It's always big to come back after a loss," he adds. "Definitely closing the door like that at the end was big. Conner, we wouldn't want to have anyone else out there but him. He's our best pitcher and we have faith in them when he's out there. All the credit goes to him for being able to come out there and shut the door for us."
Falling behind 1-0, the eighth time trailing in nine games this season for the Tigers, Auburn quickly jumped back in front in the bottom of the first. With two outs and nobody on Ryan Tella reached on an error and moved to second on balk. Following Damek Tomscha reaching after being hit by a pitch, Wacker delivered for the first time with a double to tie the game. A walk to Garrett Cooper then loaded the bases for Patrick Savage and Eastern Illinois starter Joe Greenfield finished off a forgettable first by walking in the second run of the inning for Auburn.
Staked to a 2-1 lead, Auburn starter Michael O'Neal put up three consecutive scoreless innings to allow his offense a chance to give him some cushion and it did just that. In the third Tomscha reached on an error with one out to bring Wacker to the plate. Driving one to center, the senior pushed across Tomscha with a triple to make it 3-1. A Cooper double make it a three-run lead for the Tigers and Kody Ortman finished off the damage for the Tigers with a run-scoring single.
Now up 5-1 Auburn added to its lead in the fourth as freshman Jackson Burgreen led off with a solo homer. It was his first of the season and the third for the Tigers this season. With Tella on second a Tomscha double added another run for Auburn before a Wacker single finished off the scoring to make it 8-1 Tigers.
Pitching well early, O'Neal ran into trouble in the fifth as he allowed three runs to cut the Auburn lead in half. Now up just 8-4, the Tigers weren't done allowing the Panthers to ease back into the game as reliever Justin Camp came on in the sixth and allowed a single run. With the lead at just three, things got even more interesting in the seventh.
On for his second inning of relief, Camp allowed a leadoff single to Treyson Vavra to open the seventh before walking pinch hitter Demetre Taylor to bring third baseman Brant Valach to the plate. A solid player for the Panthers, Valach doubled home Vavra to make it 8-6. That was it for Camp as Kendrick came in to try to slam the door for the Tigers.
Walking Trey Russell to put runners on the corners, Kendrick allowed a sacrifice fly to Nathan Sopena but that would be it. Leading just 8-7, Auburn needed some insurance runs to shut the door and that came in a big way in the eighth.
Jordan Ebert started the inning off with a double for his third hit of the game before walks to Dan Glevenyak and Tella loaded the bases for Tomscha. His dribbler to the left side was booted by the shortstop for an error that allowed pinch runner Sam Gillikin to score and put the Tigers up by two.
Continuing his big day, Wacker singled to give the Tigers and three-run lead. Before the inning was done Auburn would add two more insurance runs to make it a touchdown lead for Kendrick. The junior lefty finishing things off to pick up his second save of the season.
Auburn put up 14 hits for the game with Wacker leading the way with four and Ebert adding three hits. Burgreen was the only other Tiger with more than one hit as he added two including his first home run. O'Neal picked up his third win of the season, allowing two earned runs on three hits in five innings.
The Tigers will look for the series win on Sunday as sophomore Rocky McCord takes the mound in the 1 p.m. start.