Auburn, Ala.--Auburn bounced back from a disappointing weekend to get a much-needed 7-3 victory over Morehead State on Tuesday night at Plainsman Park to get some confidence back before hitting the road for the final SEC series of the year at Florida. Improving to 33-20 on the season with the win, Coach Sunny Golloway said it was an important game for his team and he was glad to see them respond with the victory.
“It’s not an easy victory because Morehead came in here with a really good record at 33-18,” Golloway said. “Regardless of what conference they play in they can really swing the bat. We had concerns with their batting average and how many home runs they’ve hit and in this ballpark the ball flies out of here, we all know that. We had our concerns and we were thin on the pitching side.”
Auburn got another quality start from Robby Clements in his final appearance at Plainsman Park. Picking up his fifth win of the season, the senior allowed two runs on six hits in five and two/thirds innings. Will Thompson, Dalton Rentz, Andrew Maxwell, and Trey Wingenter finished things off for the Tigers, allowing just three hits and one run the rest of the way.At the plate center fielder Anfernee Grier got a pair of hits after a very tough weekend, but Auburn managed just seven hits on a night when they faced a starter with a 6.47 ERA. While the win is nice Golloway said they’ve got to be able to do more offensively this weekend against a very good Florida team.
“We had to score some runs and get started,” Golloway said. “Our guys knew that and we spent a lot of time yesterday on our hitting philosophy and trying to attack. I still think we struck out too many times, seven times. We’ve got to have a little better approach of getting balls in play. Driving in runs and scoring early was really important, and Robby pitched really well.”
Auburn got the offense started in the second inning thanks to the kindness of Morehead State starter Patrick McGuff. Walks to Damon Haecker and Blake Logan put the Tigers in business before freshman Austin Murphy bunted both runners into scoring position. Following a Cody Nulph strikeout it was time for Alex Polston to do some damage. In the starting lineup for the first time since March 15 at Texas A&M, the third baseman took a 3-2 fastball and drove it deep over the head of the center fielder for a two-run double.
“It was time for Polston,” Golloway said. “It’s a tribute to his character. All of the guys have worked hard and if called on they’ll be ready to play. Polston did a great job tonight. It was a really good at-bat.”
Morehead State got a run back in the top of the third as Jimmy Wright tripled off the wall just over the head of Jackson Burgreen in left field before a fly ball off the bat of Braxton Morris drove him home. It didn’t bother Auburn however as the Tigers came back with a huge bottom of the inning to basically put the game away early.
Back-to-back singles from Melvin Gray and Grier got Auburn off on the right foot before a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position for the middle of the Tigers’ order. Following a ground ball by Daniel Robert to score Gray, Haecker singled home Grier to make it 4-1. Off on the first pitch, Haecker scored easily as Logan scorched a double down the left field line. With two outs it was Nulph’s turn to get into the action as his ground ball bounced off the glove of a diving third baseman and into left field for a single. Logan scored on the play to give the Tigers a commanding 6-1 lead.
That’s how things would remain until the top of the sixth when power hitting Kane Sweeney drove a pitch over the left field wall for his 12th home run of the season to bring Morehead State back to within five. Clements would give up two more hits in the inning before Thompson came on in relief to strike out Nick Newell and keep the Eagles at bay.
Leading off the bottom of the inning Polston hit a lazy fly ball to right field that the Morehead State defender just dropped for a two-base error. A sac bunt later and he was on third for Gray where a suicide squeeze scored him to make it a five-run lead. Morehead State scored a run in the ninth, but that was it as the Tigers came away with the win.
Auburn will return to action Thursday-Saturday when the Tigers travel to Florida to face the Gators in a huge three-game series. It’s the final regular season series of the year for both teams before next week’s SEC Tournament in Hoover.