Tigers Drop Regional Opener On Walk-Off Homer

College of Charleston homered four times, including a walk-off in the 11th inning, to beat Auburn 7-6 on Friday and drop the Tigers into the losers bracket of the Tallahassee NCAA Baseball Regional.

Tallahassee, Fla.--Entering Friday’s regional baseball opener against College of Charleston, Auburn Coach Sunny Golloway knew his pitchers needed to keep the ball down against a team with plenty of power in a ball park known for producing home runs.

While they knew what to do the Tigers didn’t get that accomplished as catcher Erven Roper’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning was one of four on the Cougars on the day as they won 7-6 to send the Tigers into the loser’s bracket.

Tied in the bottom of the 11th inning following comebacks from both teams to push the game to extra innings, Auburn reliever Izaac Yarbrough left a ball up and over the plate to the left-handed Roper with two outs and he didn’t miss the pitch, sending it over the right field wall for just his fourth home run of the year.

The blast puts the Tigers into the loser’s bracket on Saturday at 11 a.m. CDT where the Tigers will send Rocky McCord to the mound against the loser of Friday night’s game between No.1 seed Florida State and No. 4 seed Mercer.

The story of the game was mistakes from Auburn’s pitchers as College of Charleston hit four home runs, all with two outs, to provide the difference in the game. Despite Melvin Gray’s two hits and three RBI, including a two-run home run, the Tigers couldn’t get the job done on a tough day for the Tigers at Dick Howser Stadium.

“It was a disappointing loss for our Auburn Tigers,” Golloway said. “When you give up four home runs and seven runs with two outs, both teams have eight hits and strike out nine times, when you lose that ball game it’s extremely disappointing. You can’t defend the home run and that did us in today.

“They got balls to hit out,” he added. “None of those balls were down in the zone. They got balls to hit out and we knew they had power coming in and we know we’re playing in a small ballpark. Our plan was to not walk them and not give up the home run....it’s just disappointing. I don’t know if there was a two-out letdown or what, but when four balls leave the yard to account for that many runs that’s really disappointing.”

What was billed as a pitching duel between Auburn starter Cole Lipscomb and College of Charleston’s Taylor Clark never really materialized on Friday as both had their struggles before taking no-decisions. Pitching five and two/thirds innings, Lipscomb allowed six runs on five hits and struck out seven for the Tigers. While only three of his runs were earned, it was an outing for Lipscomb that hinged on just a few pitches.

“I thought Cole did a pretty good job,” Golloway said. “I thought after the second home run, the back-to-back home runs, the third one came on the next pitch and you could kind of tell he was thinking about the last pitch. I told him other than that I thought he pitched pretty well.”

Cole Lipscomb

Trey Wingenter, Justin Camp and Yarbrough pitched the final five innings for the Tigers, allowing just one hit each. Yarbrough was the tough-luck loser, allowing just the one run in three innings and striking out two.

Leading the nation with 13 wins coming in, Clarke gave up six earned runs on eight hits in seven innings for College of Charleston. The six earned runs was almost half of the 16 he allowed all season long for the Cougars on the mound. Relievers Will Detwiler, Chase Henry and Carter Love pitched four hitless innings of relief with Love getting the win to improve to 6-0.

Down 6-4 and needing something positive to happen in the seventh inning after clawing back from an early 3-1 deficit, Auburn got a huge break with one out in the inning against Clarke as Jackson Burgreen hit a towering pop up on the infield for what looked like an easy out. With a very high sky to deal with the College of Charleston infielders couldn’t find the ball and when Carl Wise’s diving effort from third came up empty a hustling Burgreen ran all the way around to third for a triple.

The play had a big impact on Clarke as he grooved the next pitch to Gray and the second baseman didn’t miss it, bombing it over the wall in left field for his first Auburn home run to tie the game at six. Showing some power, Gray’s home run put the Tigers back in the game and knocked Clarke out, making it a bullpen game the rest of the way.

“There was a man at third with one out and I was just trying to see something deep and hit a ground ball through the four-hole or groundout to the second baseman,” Gray said. “I happened to get a slider or change-up and just reacted.”

It didn’t take long for the Cougars to show their power on Friday against Lipscomb as he retired the first five batters he faced before Blake Butler got a pitch to handle and drove it over the wall in left field for his 11th home run of the season. Auburn answered back in the top of the third as Cody Nulph doubled, moved to third on a sac bunt, and scored on a Melvin Gray groundout to tie the game at one.

That’s how things remained until the bottom of the fourth when College of Charleston again showed its power. Once again getting two outs in the inning, Lipscomb got ahead 1-2 on Blake Butler, but left a pitch over the plate that was sent deep over the left field wall for a home run. It was the 13th of the season for Butler and put the Cougars back in front. On the next pitch the lead got extended as Nick Pappas’ bomb over the right field fence made it a 3-1 deficit for Auburn.

Things could have been worse for the Tigers if not for a great play by Burgreen in left field in the bottom of the fifth inning. With one out Morgan Phillips blasted a Lipscomb pitch deep to left that appeared to be the fourth home run of the day for the Cougars, but Burgreen had other ideas. Timing his jump perfectly, Burgreen leaped and grabbed the ball over the wall to rob the home run.

That play gave the Tigers much needed momentum heading into the sixth and it paid off at the plate. Leading things off, Gray singled to the shortstop and advanced to second on a throwing error. Following a strikeout and a groundout to move to third, Gray scored on a Daniel Robert single to center field, but Auburn wasn’t done.

Already with two hits, Austin Murphy’s ground ball up the middle was smothered by shortstop Champ Rowland, but Robert was able to advance to second. That set the table for Blake Logan as he doubled to push home Robert and tie the game. Shaken up, Clark balked home Murphy to complete the Auburn comeback and put the Tigers up 4-3.

The lead didn’t last long however as a leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt put a runner at second with one out for the Cougars before an error on Gray left runners on the corners. Getting a pop up for the second out, Lipscomb was close to getting out of the jam before Pappas singled through the right side to tie the game at four.

Entering the game with two runners on, Wingenter walked his first batter to load the bases before a single to center field off the bat of Roper scored two and put the Cougars back in front 6-4. That could have been the end of things for Auburn, but the Tigers made a comeback to push it to extra innings before Roper would once again deliver for College of Charleston, this time with the game winner.

Gray and Murphy each had two hits for Auburn at the plate with Robert, Logan, Nulph and Burgreen rounding out the offense on the day for the Tigers. Pappas and Roper each had two hits for the Cougars in the win.

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