Alex Polston (above) just missed a grand slam for the Tigers, but his long single drove home two runs.
Hoover, Ala.--Auburn jumped out to a 5-0 first inning lead and led No. 1 LSU 8-3 before the Bengal Tigers struck for six runs in the fifth and held on for the 9-8 win in front of a large crowd Wednesday on the second day of the SEC Tournament at the Hoover Met.
The loss drops Auburn (35-23) into the loser’s bracket where the Tigers will face the loser of Arkansas-Florida in the second game on Thursday following a 9:30 a.m. game matching Alabama vs. Missouri.
A game that started with so much promise for Auburn ended in disappointment as what looked like sure victory turned into a crushing defeat at the hands of LSU for Coach Sunny Golloway’s club. Now it’s about trying to regroup, something that won’t be easy after doing something Auburn hadn’t done very much at all this season. All year long Auburn had avoided giving up the big inning thanks to solid pitching and defense, but in perhaps the biggest situation of the season the Tigers fell apart as LSU (47-9) scored six runs in the fifth to change the momentum of the game Wednesday night.
“I think the six runs, just the air that was out of us took a tick out of our bats and our approaches,” Auburn Coach Sunny Golloway said. “It’s unfortunate. Remember, they are student-athletes and they thought they had it early. They’re still learning, we’re still learning as a program.”
Staked to a big lead, Auburn starter Rocky McCord lasted just four innings, allowing six runs on six hits while walking two.
While the numbers don’t look good, Golloway said McCord did some things well and he feels good about the rotation heading into a potential NCAA regional next week.
“I wasn’t disappointed in Rocky; I thought he pitched better,” Golloway said. “He told me he was surprised he came out. I told him that’s a good thing because he wanted to stay and pitch. He felt like he was getting back into the flow. He got his pitch count up there so he’s good to go next week. The two things that are good so far is that Cole Lipscomb and Rocky McCord got their starts and they’ll be in rhythm next week.”
The positive for Auburn on Wednesday was the offense once again came to play, scoring eight runs on eight hits against LSU. Blake Logan and Jordan Ebert each had two hits for Auburn with Ebert adding two RBI. Alex Polston added a two-run single for Auburn as well, but it wasn’t enough to take down the top team in the land. Ebert said while his Tigers didn’t pull off the upset, the team knows they have what it takes.
“When you look a team like LSU, really talented and the number one team in the country, it looks good and feels good to have a big lead on them and it hurts with the loss,” Ebert said. “At the end of the day this is the No. 1 team in the country. This is a team that’s going to be hosting a regional and super regional and is a national seed.
“I think for our team it’s more of a ‘hey, we can play with these guys.’ If that’s the best team in the country then I think we’ve got a good shot to go do some things that a lot of people didn’t think we could do. I hope and I think that our team is taking this more as a positive. I think this really shows us that we’re better than we think we are.”
Jordan Ebert had two hits for Auburn on Wednesday.
Allowing three runs in the second inning, but recovering to get through the fourth with Auburn in control, McCord ran into serious trouble when Jared Foster doubled to open the fifth inning and put LSU in business. Moving to third on a wild pitch, Foster watched as McCord walked Mark Laird to put runners on the corners with no outs. A Jake Fraley single to center field followed and when Anfernee Grier booted the ball in center field it again left runners on the corners with no outs an Auburn up 8-4.
That would be all for McCord as Wingenter came on in relief. Things started out well as he struck out Alex Bregman for the first out, but that would be the high point as Conner Hale singled up the middle to score two runs and Cade Scivicque followed with a double to the center field wall to score two more.
Following a groundout, Chris Chinea hit a shallow fly ball to right field for what should have been the final out of the inning, but Damon Haecker took his eyes off the ball and by the time he looked back up the ball floated over his head for a double. That allowed Scivicque to score and tie the game at eight. Chris Sciambra finished the inning off for LSU with a single to right field and just like that Auburn found itself trailing 9-8.
From that point forward it was all about LSU’s pitching as relievers Hunter Devall, Hunter Newman, Zach Person and Parker Bugg shut down Auburn the rest of the way for the win. Auburn only threatened twice, once in the seventh when two walks put the tying run at second with two outs, but pinch-hitter Kyler Deese struck out to end the threat.
In the eighth Ebert singled and stole second with two outs to move into scoring position, but Grier struck out to keep the Tigers down by one and that’s how things would finish.
Auburn didn’t waste any time breaking out the bats on Wednesday in a game delayed 90 minutes by weather concerns against LSU’s No. 1 starter Jared Poche. Entering the contest with a 7-1 record and an ERA of just 3.18, the left-hander would only last one inning as Auburn pounded him for five quick runs. Things started innocently enough as Melvin Gray walked and moved to second on another walk to Haecker to bring Daniel Robert to the plate.
Tapping a ground ball to the right side, Robert raced Poche to the bag and when the pitcher dropped the flip from first baseman Chris Chinea it left the bases loaded with one out for the Tigers. The start to his big night, Logan singled through the left side to score Gray and put Auburn on the scoreboard. That brought Polston to the plate with a chance to do some damage. Hitting just .255 with only five RBI for the year, the junior third baseman blasted a pitch to left field that came just inches from leaving the park for a grand slam. Instead it was a long single, but two runs scored to push the lead to three.
With two outs Auburn added two more runs to its lead when shortstop Cody Nulph drilled a line drive over the head of Bregman and into the gap for a double. Logan and Polston both scored on the play to give McCord an early 5-0 advantage.
In the bottom of the second LSU got right back in the game as Andrew Stevenson singled with one out and advanced to second on a Nulph throwing error. Following a ground ball for the second out of the inning, McCord looked like he would get out of the inning unscathed, but that wasn’t the case. Sciambra doubled on an 0-2 pitch to push Stevenson across for the first LSU run before Foster took the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for his ninth home run of the season. Just like that Auburn’s lead was down to two, but that wouldn’t last long.
Getting a single by Robert and a double by Logan to open the top of the third, Auburn turned to the veteran Ebert to deliver with one out and he came through. Getting a pitch to handle, the DH singled back through the box to push across both runs and make it a 7-3 lead for Auburn.
One inning later the lead was back to five as Grier reached on an on infield single, moved to third on a throwing error by the pitcher and scored on a Gray sacrifice fly.
Leading 8-3 Auburn was in good shape to pull off the big upset, but LSU had other ideas as the Bengal Tigers completed the comeback victory to remain in the winner’s bracket.
Auburn will send junior Dalton Rentz to the mound in Thursday’s loser’s bracket game against either Florida or Arkansas.