Auburn, Ala.--Auburn’s offense woke up a little too late in Friday night’s loss to Oral Roberts, but the Tigers (7-8) didn’t have that problem on Saturday as Butch Thompson’s club pounded out 14 hits in a 10-1 victory over the Golden Eagles to even the series. Getting strong quality pitching from freshman Casey Mize as well, Thompson said despite three errors his team gave perhaps its most complete performance of the year in the victory.
“We came out and threw the first punch, Thompson said. “I thought we really picked up from last night feeling like we ran out of time in that ballgame. It had everybody’s attention today. Casey competed really good, not many strikeouts and that’s a credit to Oral Roberts, but he just kind of managed it.”
Backing up his strong performance last weekend in a loss to Michigan State, Mize was very good on Saturday as he picked up his first career win. Allowing just a run on six hits and striking out four, Mize was in complete command and said for him it was a great day to pick up his first career win for the Tigers.
“I threw three pitches for strikes, a changeup, slider and fastball,” Mize said. “I didn’t locate the fastball as well as I wanted to, but I got it over the plate when I need to and got a lot of ground ball outs. Pitching is all about outs and it doesn’t matter if you get strikeouts or flyouts. I got a lot of ground balls today and it really worked out for me.
“I have been dreaming about this for a long time,” he added of his first win. “I’m glad it’s finally here. I look to build off it and get many more.”
Auburn freshman pitcher Casey Mize
While Mize was controlling things on the mound the Auburn offense was breaking out of its slump, something that carried over from the ninth inning on Friday night when the Tigers almost made a comeback from three runs down. Putting together those at-bats helped them heading into Saturday said left fielder Josh Palacios, one of the hitting stars on Saturday with three hits, two RBI and two runs scored.
“I’m proud of my team because we went out there and got it,” Palacios said. “Especially after yesterday with the call that may have been questionable. We came back and showed heart. Everybody was kind of hungry for today and we just wanted to get after it.
“That definitely carried over into today,” he added of the ninth inning from Friday. “That kind of showed what we were made of and that we can do it. If anybody was doubting on the team they’re definitely not doubting any more. We have more of a positive attitude now and everybody wants to get after it.”
And that’s what the Tigers did on Saturday as senior Jordan Ebert joined Palacios with three hits and three RBI. His day pushed his batting average back over .400 for the season. Chipping in with two hits each were Anfernee Grier, Niko Buentello, Blake Logan and Cody Nulph as Auburn’s offense scored in double figures for the fifth time this season.
The Tigers wasted no time picking up where the offense left off on Friday with two runs in the first inning. With one out Palacios walked to bring Ebert to the plate and he continued his hot hitting with a single through the right side. After Buentello just missed hitting one off the wall in left field, Logan got the scoring started for the Tigers with a double in the gap. That gave Mize a 2-0 lead to work with, but Auburn was just getting started.
Grier added to the lead in the third on one swing of the bat from Grier in the third as he took an 0-2 pitch deep over the green monster in left field for a three-run lead. One inning later Auburn push the lead to five as a Palacios single scored Nulph and put two runners on for Ebert. Getting a pitch to handle he smoked it down the left field line for a double to easily score Shaffer, but Palacios was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
Mize ran into his first serious trouble of the game and it came with two outs and nobody on. Chase Stafford got it started with a ground rule double into the Oral Roberts bullpen before Noah Cummings followed with an inside-out single just inside the first base bag. After a walk to leadoff man Nick Rotola to bring powerful Nick Roark to the plate, Mize came back with a huge strikeout to keep the damage to just a run.
That’s how things would stay until the bottom of the sixth when the Tigers put up a big four-run inning to break the game open. Playing right field, Jackson Burgreen walked and when Nulph doubled he motored all the way around to score for the five-run lead. Following a sac bunt by Shaffer and an intentional walk to Grier, Palacios singled through the right side to make it 7-1 and put runners on the corners.
Auburn wasn’t done yet however as an Ebert groundout scored Shaffer before Buentello finished off the scoring with a single through the right side to score Palacios. Now staked to an eight-run lead Mize pitched a scoreless seventh before turning things over to the bullpen to finish it off. Gordon Cardenas allowed a pair of runners in the eighth, but escaped the damage to allow the Tigers to tack on the 10th run of the game on another Ebert RBI single. A scoreless ninth inning from Cardenas closed things out for the win.
Auburn looks for the series win on Sunday as the Tigers send Cole Lipscomb to the mound. The first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Plainsman Park.