Haecker's Blast Propels AU Over Rattlers

Damon Haecker's first career HR gave Auburn a 3-2 win over FAMU on Tuesday night.

Auburn, Ala.--On a night when the Auburn Tigers couldn’t get anything going offensively one swing of the bat made the difference as Damon Haecker’s first career home run broke a tie game in the bottom of the eighth for a 3-2 victory for Coach Sunny Golloway’s club. Improving to 26-16 overall, the Tigers now get ready for a three-game series against Georgia beginning Thursday night at Plainsman Park, but Golloway said his team needs to get its energy back.

“It was a grind,” Golloway said. “We didn’t have a lot of energy in the dugout and I think that’s coming off the emotions of last weekend. I guess that’s something our program has to continue to work on is how important midweek games are, because they are important. You can’t lose to a 200 RPI team and maintain a good RPI. We found a way to win. Haecker came up really big for us.”

On a night when the offense managed just four total hits and left just three runners on base, Auburn got the big swing from the most unlikely of guys. Entering the game without a home run in his two seasons with the Tigers and just six extra-base hits in 146 at-bats in 2015, Haecker’s blast was the difference.

With the game tied at two following FAMU’s two-run outburst in the top of the eighth, Haecker faced reliever Kenny McDonald looking to get the inning started in a positive way. He did more than that however as he took the first pitch over the right field wall for the home run to give the Tigers the lead.

“It was a huge swing,” Haecker said. I was just looking for a pitch to drive. It was nothing that I had not done before, just try to barrell it up. I guess the wind was blowing out a little bit and it carried over the fence. You just try to square it up and at that moment it was a big hit for us.”

Justin Camp came on to close the door in the ninth for Auburn, but it wouldn’t be easy. A pair of singles put the tying run on second with two outs for Kendal Weeks, but his pop to third gave the Tigers the hard-fought win.

It took five innings for Auburn to get on the scoreboard against Florida A&M on Tuesday night and it took plenty of help from the Rattlers to make that happen. Facing reliever Timoth Reker, the Tigers got walks to Cody Nulph and Austin Murphy before new pitcher Alex Carrasco came on to face pinch hitter Jackson Burgreen.

Called on to punt, Burgreen put one down for the 26th bunt single of the year for the Tigers to load the bases for the heart of the Auburn order. Continuing to swing the bat well, Melvin Gray hit a fly ball to center field that easily scored Nulph to put Auburn on the scoreboard. Anfernee Grier followed with a sac fly of his own and just like that the Tigers were up 2-0 with only three hits to show for the night.

In the top of the seventh Burgreen saved Auburn with his glove as he ran down a fly ball off the bat of A.J. Elkins with two runners on. His diving grab kept the Rattlers off the board, but the Tigers wouldn’t be as fortunate in the eighth.

Auburn’s defense got the inning started for the visitors as Kyler Deese’s second error of the night put the Rattlers in business before a Ryan Kennedy single brought pinch-hitter Kendall Weeks up in a bunt situation. Attempting to get the sacrifice with two strikes, Kennedy’s foul ball went as a strikeout for the first out. That proved to be big as Michael Birdsong singled to center field to put FAMU on the board with still just one out.

That would be all for Clements as Jacob Milliman came on in relief for the Tigers and immediately walked the first batter to load the bases for the Rattlers. Facing reserve Taylor Strauss, Milliman gave up a sharp single to left to score the tying run. Coming up throwing in left Burgreen airmailed Deese at third and the ball bounded behind the batter’s circle. Instead of breaking for the plate Birdsong held at third, but thinking the runners were on the move he headed towards second only to be thrown out for the second out. Milliman got a strikeout looking to end the threat and keep the score tied at two.

With the score tied it set the stage for Haecker’s home run in the bottom of the eighth to give the Tigers the win.

The Tigers will return to action beginning Thursday night when Georgia comes to Plainsman Park for three games. All three can be seen on the SEC Network.

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