Auburn, Ala.--Xavier starting pitcher Brad Kirschner entered Friday’s series opener against Auburn with a 2-1 record and an ERA of just 0.47, but Coach Sunny Golloway’s Tigers lit him up for six runs on seven hits in just four and one/third innings on the way to a 7-2 win. It was the ninth win in the last 10 games for the Tigers as they improved to 11-3 on the season.
At the plate the Tigers were led by Cody Nulph’s three hits while Anfernee Grier and J.J. Shaffer each added a pair of hits. The big blow came from catcher Blake Logan as his fifth inning triple scored three runs and broke the game open for Auburn on the way to the win. The Tigers finished with 11 hits, the sixth consecutive game with double figure hits for the Auburn offense, but had several early opportunities to do some major damage before Logan came through.
“We tell our guys that our job is to put guys in scoring position and then have a good at-bat or a clutch at-bat,” Golloway said. “It’s not always going to happen and we understand that, but we had guys in scoring position throughout until we got to that fifth inning where Blake busted it open. It was a huge, key at-bat to be able to unload like that.”
On the mound for the Tigers, redshirt sophomore Cole Lipscomb was once again solid as he improved his record to 3-0 on the year with the win. Allowing just four hits in six innings and striking out five, Lipscomb wasn’t as efficient as he wanted, but overall he said it was another positive outing.
“I felt like it was a day where I didn’t have my best stuff, but I had to go out there and battle,” Lipscomb said. “I had to go out there and put our team in a position to win. I just went out there and tried to throw strikes. Our defense played great. Our offense had some timely hits. It was a good team effort today.”
Cole Lipscomb picked up the win for the Tigers
Auburn wasted no time getting the offense going as Grier led off the bottom of the first with an infield single to push his hitting streak to 16 games. It is the longest for an Auburn player since Casey McElroy hit in 18 straight in 2011. Kirschner put the pressure on himself by hitting Damon Haecker to bring the heart of the Auburn order to the plate with nobody out. Doing his job, Jordan Ebert bunted both runners into scoring position with one out to bring Daniel Robert to the plate for the Tigers.
Coming back to get a strikeout of Robert, Kirschner walked Hunter Tackett to bring shortstop Nulph to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. Getting a pitch to handle, Nulph singled back through the middle to score Grier and Haecker and put Auburn up 2-0.
Xavier pushed across a single run in the second inning off Lipscomb on a single off the bat of Brian Bruening, but the Tigers would answer back in the bottom half after loading the bases with one out. At the plate with a chance to break the game open, Haecker lifted a fly ball to right field that was deep enough to score Alex Polston from third and make it a two-run lead once again for the Tigers.
Auburn missed an opportunity to break it open in the second, but that wasn’t the case in the fifth as a pair of walks to Ebert and Robert put the Tigers in business to start the inning. In his first plate appearance of the season Jackson Burgreen put down a perfect bunt single to load the bases for Nulph with nobody out.
Jumping on the first pitch, Nulph laced a ground ball directly to the Xavier third baseman Bruening. His throw to the plate retired Ebert for the first out to bring Logan to the plate. Trying to keep the Tigers in check, Kirschner left a pitch over the heart of the plate that Logan hammered deep to left field. Never slowing down with the Xavier outfielders chasing the ball, Logan motored into third base for his first career triple. The blast cleared the bases and gave Auburn a commanding 6-1 lead.
“My first two at-bats he kind of got me down in the zone and I wasn’t staying through it,” Logan said. “I knew I would probably get another chance. I go out there with guys on base and he threw another pitch that was down in the zone. I just kind of stayed with it, stayed down through it, and was able to drive one in the gap.”
Shaffer added a run-scoring single in the bottom of the seventh to push Auburn’s lead out to six before the Musketeers finished off the scoring with a run off reliever Dalton Rentz in the eighth inning.
Auburn will send Rocky McCord to the mound on Saturday looking to keep the momentum going for the Tigers. The first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Plainsman Park.