The big blow came from local product Kyler Deese. With the bases loaded and two outs he unloaded a huge double to clear the bases in the sixth on the way to the win. Starting his career at Auburn before transferring last season to get some experience at Central Alabama Community College, Deese said he came back for just a moment like this and it was everything he expected.
“We worked hard all night and tried to do our best to stay in the game,” Deese said. “I got an opportunity and glad I succeeded and glad we came away with the victory. I live and die for the home town of Auburn. It’s just great to be able to have all the people and fans here to see it.”
Inserted in the lineup by Auburn hitting coach Greg Norton following a good day of batting practice before Friday’s game, Deese came through with the biggest hit of the year for the Tigers. The blow broke the game open and the Tigers held on in the ninth for the win to improve to 15-7 overall and 1-3 in SEC play. With the loss Vanderbilt drops to 17-5, 3-1 in league action.
“I can’t say enough about Kyler and not just because he got the big two-strike hit there,” Coach Sunny Golloway said. “The game found him and he came up big. He’s the mold of really what we’re looking for. He’s physically tough and mentally tough.”
This one was billed as a pitcher’s duel and that was exactly the case for much of the game until the Tigers broke the game open in the sixth inning. Picking up his fourth win of the year, Auburn sophomore Keegan Thompson allowed just three runs on seven hits in six and two/third innings while striking out eight. Entering the game 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA, Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer allowed six runs, one earned, on seven hits and struck out eight in five and two/thirds innings to take his first loss of the year.
“I think it is big and it’s as big as we can allow it to be as far as what it does tomorrow,” Golloway said of the win and facing Vanderbilt in a doubleheader on Saturday. “Had we not won the game and we’re staring at an 0-4 start in the SEC we’re not going to sleep very well and the coaches aren’t going to rest very well. What you do is just have to stay the course.”
Keegan Thompson earned his fourth win of the season and first SEC win since March 22, 2014 at Tennessee.
Trailing 2-1 after a pair of solo home runs from the Commodores off Thompson, the Tigers came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning trying to find some offense against Fulmer. With eight strikeouts already Auburn’s offense got a kick start from third baseman Damon Haecker. Already with a run-scoring double to his credit in the third, Haecker got a pitch to handle and lifted it over the head of Zander Wiel at first base for a leadoff triple.
That play seemed to take Fulmer out of his comfort zone for a moment and when Cody Nulph reached on an error by third baseman Will Toffey to allow Haecker to score, it was officially go-time for the Tigers. A walk to Daniel Robert put runners on first and second for catcher Blake Logan in a bunt situation. He got the bunt down, but Fulmer whirled and threw to third, only Toffey wasn’t covering the base. Sliding into third, Nulph got up and scurried home, but the throw from Bryan Reynolds was in time to gun him down for the first out.
With runners on second and third and one out the Commodores played the odds and walked Sam Gillikin to face Jordan Ebert instead. That move worked as Ebert lined out to the shortstop to bring Deese to the plate. Getting a pitch on the outside corner that he could handle, Deese lined it just inside the left field line and into the corner for the biggest hit of his career. That emptied the bases and put Auburn ahead 5-2. Melvin Gray followed that with a single up the middle to make it a four-run lead for Thompson and the Tigers, but it was Deese that put his stamp on things with the big double. Standing on second he said he could only think of one thing.
"War Damn Eagle," he said with a smile.
Coming back for his seventh inning, the sophomore struck out the first two batters he faced before allowing an infield single to number nine hitter Jeren Kendall. A walk to Ro Coleman brought the heart of the Vanderbilt order to the plate and that meant some trouble for the Tigers. A Rhett Wiseman single scored Kendall to make it a three-run lead and end the day for Thompson.
On in relief with a three-run lead and the tying run at the plate, Lipscomb walked his first batter on four pitches to load the bases for cleanup hitter Zander Wiel. Already with a home run in the game and a grand slam to his credit this season, Wiel presented a huge challenge for Lipscomb, but he was more than ready as he got a strikeout to end the threat and keep Auburn’s lead at 6-3.
In the eighth the Commodores kept the pressure on the Tigers with a run on a two-out single from Ellison, but once again Lipscomb recovered with a big strikeout of Kendall to leave a runner stranded on second and Auburn clinging to a two-run lead. Walking the leadoff man in the ninth, Lipscomb came back to close the door and secure the victory with his first career save.
Because of impending weather on Sunday, Auburn and Vanderbilt will play a day-night doubleheader on Saturday with the first game scheduled for 2 p.m. and the second set for 7 p.m.
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