Auburn, Ala.--Sunday’s 18-11 victory for the Auburn Tigers (8-8) was torture for a pitching coach like Butch Thompson, but the first-year coach isn’t going to turn down the victory as his team pounded out 21 hits to earn the win and the series over Oral Roberts. Getting four hits each from Blake Logan and Jackson Burgreen and home runs from Anfernee Grier and Niko Buentello, Auburn’s bats finished off the weekend in style and Thompson said that’s big for their confidence as the Tigers get ready for SEC play next weekend.
“We’re just trying to get better and we need some momentum,” Thompson said. “It was a tough little stretch for the guys and the way everything transpired to end Friday night’s game, to come out and find a way to win two games that’s the storyline for me to win a series against a very good offensive club. I just thought we played offense all day. I thought two strikes, time and again and I talked about it yesterday (Saturday) and the casual fan that heard that saw it more today. I thought I saw a lot of at-bats extended and innings extended with two strikes so the guys were locked in yesterday and today offensively.”
Buentello was one of three players to finish the day with three hits along with Cody Nulph and Josh Palacios while Grier had two hits and four RBI. His RBI total tied Nulph for the team-high on the day while Logan added three runs driven in.
Inserted into the lineup in right field on Saturday, Burgreen entered the game with just two hits in 17 at-bats but turned that around in a big way on Sunday. Finally getting his chance he said it felt good to do his part as the lineup produced from top to bottom in the victory.
“With our team we have so much competition going on that everybody pushes you and makes you work harder every single day, which is good,” Burgreen said. “When they get their opportunity their ready. I’m just glad to be in there getting some swings. Yesterday (Saturday) I felt like I put some good swings on balls and today I didn’t hit the ball as hard, but they fell which was a good thing to see.”
Jackson Burgreen had a big day for the Tigers.
Auburn’s offense overcame an up-and-down performance both on the mound and in the field for the Tigers as a pair of errors helped Oral Roberts’ cause at the plate as did a shaky start from junior Cole Lipscomb. Allowing seven runs, but only four earned, in just four and one/thirds innings on five hits, Lipscomb struggled to find the strike zone and it kept him in trouble the entire game.
Relievers Gabe Klobosits and Izaac Yarbrough weren’t much better, allowing three runs on five hits in just two and two/thirds innings. The bright spots came from Ben Braymer and Daniel Sprinkle as the duo allowed just one hit in the final two innings to finish with a positive.
“The pitching wasn’t good enough to consistently win today and I think we all know that,” Thompson said. “Three times today we have a lead, the first time we score four and they score five. Three times we allowed them to come back into the ballgame. We’ve got to figure out a way to keep getting better, but that was a tough day for us.”
It didn’t take long for Auburn’s offense to get things started on Sunday as the Tigers put up four runs in the second to show they meant business. Continuing to hit the ball well, Buentello blasted a solo shot deep over the K Corner in right field to put Auburn on the scoreboard. The first hit of the day put the catcher on base before he moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a Nulph single. The first of four hits for Burgreen followed by an error on a J.J. Shaffer ground ball loaded the bases for Palacios and his single pushed two more across for the 4-0 lead.
The good feelings didn’t last long however as Oral Roberts struck for five runs in the top of the third in what would be the story of the day. Getting three hits and an Auburn error, the Golden Eagles answered back in a big way but in the bottom of the fourth the Tigers would even things on a bases loaded walk to Jordan Ebert.
Tied at five both teams scored a pair of runs in the fifth before Oral Roberts pulled back in front with a single run in the sixth, setting the stage for Auburn’s huge inning that would be the difference in the game.
Ripping a pitch through the right side for a single, Buentello got it started for Auburn and when Logan singled it brought Kyler Deese up with a chance to move both runners into scoring position with a bunt. He got the first job done with a bunt just in front of the plate, but the throw was wild at first. The error allowed Buentello to score and put runners on second and third with nobody out.
Doing his job, Nulph lifted a fly ball to left field to score Logan to put the Tigers back in front 9-8.
One out later a walk to pinch-hitter Daniel Robert brought Grier to the plate looking for a pitch to drive. Getting what he has looking for the junior blasted a three-run shot over the green monster in left field. The blast was his fourth of the season and ties him with Buentello for the team lead.
Auburn wasn’t done just yet as singles from Palacios and Ebert and a walk to Buentello loaded the bases for Logan. Already with two hits on the day the catcher sliced a single to right field to score two more Auburn runs and give the Tigers a commanding six-run cushion.
Auburn needed all the cushion it could get though as Oral Roberts’ Trevin Sonnier doubled off Yarbrough to start the eighth inning before Chase Stafford lifted a ball over the wall in left-center for his first home run of the season. That brought the lead back to just four for the Tigers and meant another pitching change for Auburn, this one to Braymer.
Walking the first batter he faced, the left-hander didn’t get help from his defense as a line drive bounced off the glove of Buentello at first. While Auburn managed to get the batter, what could have been a double play instead left a runner in scoring position. Facing Nick Roark, Braymer got a fly ball into the corner in left field that Palacios dropped for the third error of the game for the Tigers.
That allowed the third run of the inning to score for Oral Roberts and when Braymer walked the next hitter it brought the tying run to the plate. He recovered to get the final two batters and preserve the three-run advantage for Auburn. Four more runs in the bottom of the eighth adding to a big day for the Tigers in the victory.
Auburn returns to action Tuesday night at 5 p.m. CDT when the Tigers travel to face Georgia Tech in Atlanta.