Auburn, Ala.--With the offense again struggling to put away Georgia State on Tuesday night the Auburn Tigers turned to some unlikely heroes in a 4-2 win as reliever Jacob Milliman allowed just one hit in four innings of relief to pick up his first career win. Out of action since breaking a finger on March 6 against Xavier, outfielder Jackson Burgreen’s stellar defensive play in the ninth inning secured the win for the Tigers much to the delight of his teammates.
Leading by a pair of runs to start the ninth, Auburn (20-13) sent Dalton Rentz out for what would be his second inning of scoreless relief, but it wouldn’t be without some drama. Giving up a single to start the inning, Rentz retired the next batter to bring Matt Rose to the plate for Georgia State (19-15). Already with nine home runs on the year, Rose jumped on a pitch and drove the ball high and deep to left-center field.
Taking off from his position in left field, where he entered an inning earlier, Burgreen ran down the ball to the 385’ mark in Plainsman Park before leaping for the grab and the second out of the inning. It proved to be a huge play as Joey Roach singled to follow with what could have been the game-tying hit. Instead it left the Panthers with runners on first and second as Rentz fittingly got a fly ball to Burgreen to secure his first career save.
Burgreen runs down the deep fly ball in the ninth inning
Robby Clements allowed two runs on five hits in three innings for the Tigers on the mound while Anfernee Grier’s three hits led the way for the Tigers with Damon Haecker and Sam Gillikin each collecting a pair of hits as well.
On a night when the Tigers left nine runners on base, many coming with a chance to break the game open, Coach Sunny Golloway said it was good to see his pitching step up and then for Burgreen to do what he did.
“That was Robby’s first career start and I thought he pitched really well,” Golloway said. “Then I thought Milly came in and established himself really good and took control of the game for us. That really helped. It’s a little bit frustrating, I’m not going to tell you it’s not, getting guys in scoring position and not being able to drive them in. What can you do? You just have to figure by the end of the season it’s all going to come out even, or I hope it does.”
As for Burgreen’s play, nobody had a better look then Grier. Watching his teammate battle to get back on the field, Grier said he it was fitting that the Athens native made the big play to secure the win for the Tigers.
“It’s great,” Grier said of Burgreen. “You ought to see him in batting practice, he shows out. I knew he would catch that ball. He’s a great player and comes out and works hard every day. He’s coming off a broken finger so it’s good to see him come out and do something special like that today.”
Auburn took the early lead with Grier getting the Tigers started in the first with a single through the left side. Following a Haecker single and a Daniel Robert double play, Grier stood on third with two outs for designated hitter Ben Craft. Getting a pitch to handle the left-hander went the other way for a double to give Auburn the 1-0 lead.
It didn’t take long for the Panthers to respond as back-to-back doubles from Joey Roach and Few tied the game and gave them a runner in scoring positions with nobody out. A single put runners on the corners with still nobody out before Georgia State completely ran themselves out of the inning. First Cam Sperry was caught stealing trying to advance to second before Trae Sweeting hit a ground ball back to the pitcher that started a strange double play to end the inning.
Fielding the ball on the mound, Clements caught Few too far off third and a rundown eventually retired him for out number two. Never slowing down on the play, Sweeting was thrown out at third to end the inning and keep the score tied at one.
In the third the Panthers pulled ahead as number nine hitter David Levy doubled to start the inning and later scored on a Justin Jones sacrifice fly for the 2-1 Georgia State lead. After that Auburn’s pitching shut down the visitors the rest of the way to allow the Tigers’ offense to do just enough to get the win.
Leading off the fourth with a single, Kyler Deese eventually scored on a Blake Logan groundout to tie the game. The next inning it was once again Grier that set the table as his double led to his scoring on Robert single to put the Tigers ahead 3-2. Auburn eventually loaded the bases with one out, but pinch hitter Alex Polston struck out before a Melvin Gray fly ball ended the threat.
Loading the bases again in the sixth Auburn got a wild pitch to score a run and push the lead to 4-2, but that would be all as Jordan Ebert struck out to leave the final two runners on base for the Tigers.
Auburn returns to action this weekend as the Tigers travel to LSU for a three-game series. Game times are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
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