Auburn, Ala.--Auburn Tigers offense did plenty of damage in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, but it wasn’t enough for the Tigers as No. 3 Texas A&M pounded out 17 hits on the way to a 12-8 win at Plainsman Park. With the game tied going to the ninth the Aggies scored four runs to break the game open and improve to 17-1 on the season. The loss in the SEC opener drops Auburn to 9-9 overall on the season.
At the plate Auburn got a huge day from left fielder Josh Palacios as he went 4-4 and had a big part of the 10 hits for the Tigers on the day. Daniel Robert and Kyler Deese each had a pair of hits as well while Nick Choruby’s four hits led the Aggies with leadoff man J.B. Moss adding three hits and four RBI.
On the mound Auburn starter Justin Camp allowed seven runs on 10 hits in five innings for the Tigers while relievers Ben Braymer, Marc Frazier and Gordon Cardenas combined to give up four earned runs on seven hits in four innings. Auburn touched up Texas A&M starter Jace Vines for six runs in just three and a third innings, but reliever Mark Eckert slammed the door on Auburn late, giving up just one hit in three innings to get his second win of the year.
In the first Moss got things started for the Aggies with a leadoff single and following a fly ball out he quickly stole second to move into scoring position. That proved to be a big play as a potential double play ball moved him instead to third. A single by Hunter Melton then scored Moss to put the Aggies on the board.
The second inning was much of the same as a two-out bunt single by Choruby and a stolen base moved him into scoring position for the number nine hitter in the order and George Janca came through with a single to right field for the 2-0 Aggie lead.
In the third Auburn finally broke through as Palacios hit a long triple to left-center to give the Tigers a serious scoring threat. With Jordan Ebert at the plate Palacios read a ball in the dirt perfectly, scoring on a wild pitch to cut the lead in half.
It didn’t take long for Texas A&M to get the run back and more as the Aggies struck for three runs to take a 5-1 lead. Giving up three consecutive one-out singles, Camp recovered to get Janca on strikes but once again two-out hitting would hurt the Tigers as Moss doubled into the gap to clear the bases and put Auburn in a serious hole.
Unfazed, the Tigers responded in the bottom of the fourth as a one-out walk to Jackson Burgreen got the offense untracked. Following a single by Robert, Cody Nulph hit a ground ball up the middle that Ryne Birk fielded, but his throw to second was wide of the bag to load the bases with nobody out.
Three consecutive singles by Deese, Anfernee Grier and Palacios scored three runs to bring Ebert to the plate. Getting a pitch to handle, Ebert flared a single into center field to score both Deese and Grier and make it a five-run inning for Auburn and put Tigers ahead 6-5.
Camp pitched into the sixth inning before running out of gas as a leadoff double and a single tied the game and brought Braymer out of the pen. Struggling of late, the left-hander got a pair of outs but gave up a double and a single in between to score two more runs and make it 8-6.
Palacios again put the Tigers on his back, this time with a leadoff double to start the bottom of the sixth. After stealing third he scored on Niko Buentello groundout to make it 8-7. Following a scoreless inning from Frazier, Auburn again tied the game with a single run in the seventh as Burgreen was hit by a pitch and Robert doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs.
Facing Ecker, Nulph hit a towering fly ball to center field to easily score Burgreen and move Robert to third with just one out. Now tied at eight and with two chances to push across the go-ahead run, Auburn couldn’t get the job done as a Deese fly ball to left was to shallow for him to run. Grier struck out to end the threat for the Tigers and that would be huge as the Aggies would break the game open in the ninth to take the victory.
Pitching two and a third scoreless innings heading to the ninth, Frazier ran into trouble right away as he walked Melton to lead things off. Following a bunt single to put runners on first and second, Michael Barash bunted the ball back to the mound and when Frazier threw the ball over Ebert’s head at first base it was big trouble for Auburn as a run scored and two were in scoring position with still no outs. Two more hits and a wild pitch later and the Aggies had four runs on the board as they broke open the game late to take the 12-8 win.
The two teams will play the second game of the doubleheader starting at 5:25 today.