Auburn, Ala.--Needing a big day to move up in the SEC baseball standings the Auburn Tigers (13-14, 2-6) got what they were looking for in game one against #14 LSU with an 8-5 victory, but it was too much Bengal Tigers in game two as the visitors held off a late rally to win 8-6 to split the Saturday doubleheader and set up a winner take all Sunday game at Plainsman Park.
“It was a role reversal,” Coach Butch Thompson said. “You always want to win two games. We got another hard-fought split. We’re getting to that point in the season, and we’ve still got a long way to go, but when you’ve got an opportunity to win you want to take advantage of it.
“All in all we want more,” he added. “We’re getting to the stage where we feel like we’re getting a little bit better. We felt like we’ve played good baseball this week and want a little bit more. Hopefully we’ll come out and get an opportunity and a chance to put ourselves in position to win our first SEC series tomorrow.”
Getting a big game from Blake Logan with two hits and four RBI with Anfernee Grier adding three hits and three runs scored, Auburn got a great start on the day. It was another bright spot for Auburn’s offense as they touched up LSU ace Alex Lange for seven earned runs in six and two/thirds innings on the way to an 8-5 win.
“He looked electric coming out in the ball game to start,” Thompson said of Lange. “Jordan Ebert swung at three pitches and all three of them were out of the strike zone. That’s when you’ve got electric stuff when it starts at the top of the strike zone and goes all the way to the floor and good hitters just swing at it.
“The second time through the lineup the guys really identified balls and strikes. It’s one of the best breaking balls we’ll face. We laid off some stuff and he gave us some balls. We hung in there and the four-spot was huge to the ballgame. That’s beating a real dude. They won’t see better stuff on a day-to-day basis. I tip my hat to our offense, that was a great offensive inning.”
That was the most runs Lange has given up in his two-year career at LSU. On the other side Justin Camp got the win for Auburn, allowing two earned runs on four hits in five innings, but Logan was the star of the game. His three-run double in the third inning was part of a four-run frame for Auburn that put the home team on top early. He finished 2-4 with four RBI and a pair of doubles.
LSU came back with a pair of runs in the fourth, but Auburn would answer back in the bottom of the inning thanks to one swing of the bat from Josh Palacios. With Grier on first after getting hit by a pitch, Palacios hit a bomb deep over the wall in right field for a 6-2 lead.
Escaping a jam in the fifth when Palacios threw out a runner at the plate, Camp gave way to Gabe Klobosits, who got a double play to end the sixth, but wouldn’t make it out of the seventh as LSU loaded the bases with one out. Coming on in relief, freshman Casey Mize got a liner for a double play to keep Auburn in front 6-2.
Adding single runs in the seventh and eighth, Auburn had to hold on in the ninth as LSU got a Jake Fraley single to cut the lead to 8-3 before Greg Deichmann unloaded on a home run to right field to make it a three-run game.
Another double brought Izaac Yarbrough into the game with two outs, but he walked Bryce Jordan to bring the tying run to the plate. Facing pinch hitter Trey Dawson, Yarbrough froze him on a breaking ball to end the game and give Auburn the victory.
In game two LSU was the beneficiary of some shaky Auburn defense to take the early lead on Cole Lipscomb and never relinquished it as they took advantage of three errors in the win
.After Auburn left the bases loaded in the first, in the second inning Kyler Deese booted a ball at third base and with one out Brody Wofford singled to right field. Coming up throwing, Daniel Robert’s throw was in time, but Deese couldn’t handle it for his second error of the inning. After getting a pop up, Lipscomb got Chris Reid to hit a fly ball to deep right field. Turning the wrong way, Robert couldn’t make the play allowing two runs to score.
“Cole was really good at Arkansas and maybe wasn’t quite a sharp,” Thompson said of his starter who allowed five earned runs on eight hits in six and one/third innings. “I thought he should have given up three or four runs. I thought we had a play at third and the ball was hit so well in right field, but it was in our glove. If you’re going to be a championship-level team or make a move you’re going to make those plays.”
In the fourth Jordan Romero put LSU up 3-0 with a solo home run before Auburn again threatened in the bottom of the fifth. Singles from Grier and Palacios started things off well for the Tigers before Ebert hit a ground ball back up the middle off the glove of Cole Freeman at second base. Unfortunately for Auburn the ball bounced right to Kramer Robertson at the second base bag. He stepped on second and threw to first for the double play. A Niko Buentello fly ball ended the inning and the Auburn threat.
Trailing 3-1 it was Auburn’s defense that again was a problem in the sixth as Lipscomb struck out Deichmann with one out, but the ball got underneath Logan to allow the runner to reach. It proved to be big as he quickly stole second and scored on a Romero double to put LSU’s lead back to three.
Cody Nulph and the Tigers will try to win the series on Sunday.
They would break the game open in the seventh with three more runs to take a commanding 7-1 lead before Auburn would threaten again in the bottom of the eighth. Facing reliever Hunter Newman, the Tigers got a double by Ebert to start things and with one out Logan singled through the left side to put runners on the corners. A single by Cody Nulph made it a five-run game and brought Deese to the plate with a chance to bring Auburn back closer, but following a 16-pitch at-bat his fly ball to right ended the inning.
LSU added a run in the top of the ninth after a pair of stolen bases and a wild pitch from Ben Braymer that allowed him to score, but Auburn wasn’t done.
After Jackson Burgreen singled to open the frame, Grier hit into a double play that seemingly took the wind out of Auburn’s sails. but that wasn’t the case at all. A Palacios double started the rally before Ebert walked to bring Buentello to the plate. His single made it 8-3 and the Tigers were just getting started.
Another Logan single to score a run cut the lead to four before Robert walked to bring Nulph to the plate with the bases loaded. Getting a pitch to hit, Nulph singled through the right side to score two more runs for Auburn and bring Deese to the plate. His ground ball ended the game with Auburn thinking about what could have been.
The bright spot was that Auburn did some damage to LSU closer Caleb Gilbert in the process. Allowing just three earned runs in 15 innings this season and four runs total, Auburn touched him up for four runs on five hits in an inning on 36 pitches.
Auburn will try to win the series vs. LSU on Sunday with the first pitch set for 1 p.m. CDT at Plainsman Park.