Auburn, Ala.--Needing a win to get their first series win in SEC play, the Auburn Tigers struggled defensively and on the mound as LSU won 10-5 to take the series at Plainsman Park. The loss drops Auburn to 13-15 overall and just 2-7 in league play while No. 14 LSU improves to 18-9, 4-5 in SEC action.
Anfernee Grier led Auburn with three hits while Jordan Ebert and Blake Logan had two hits for Auburn as Coach Butch Thompson’s team managed just eight hits on the day as LSU’s pitchers allowed innings of three and two runs, but that was it for the day. Auburn starter Andrew Mitchell allowed four earned runs on five hits in four innings of work but wasn’t given any help from his defense in the loss. Out of the bullpen Izaac Yarbrough allowed a pair of runs on four hits in two innings with Gordon Cardenas and Mark Frazier pitching the last three innings.
With the game within their grasp for the second time on the weekend only to let it slip away, Thompson said it was a disappointing finish to what had been a good week for his team.
“I think our kids are still battling hard,” Thompson said. “Our staff, we’ve been here five months now, and we’ve got to do a better job and I have to do a better job of putting our guys in position and giving them a chance to win an SEC series.
“Yarbrough went back out there and maybe I should have gotten him out earlier,” he added. “We’re kind of down in our pitching and just trying to find the right move and know the guys a little bit more. You always want to do things better to help them out. We’ve tried to change it up and it would be nice to find a rhythm. That was a big series for us to try to compete in. I wish I had put them in a better situation because they are playing so hard for us.”
It didn’t take long for both offenses to get on the board in Sunday’s series finale as LSU took advantage of a Cody Nulph error on leadoff batter Kramer Robertson to score the game’s first run. Auburn answered back quickly against LSU starter John Valek III as Grier doubled to start things off and stole third. After Josh Palacios was hit by a pitch, a passed ball scored Grier and moved Palacios into scoring position.
Starting his good day, Ebert doubled down the left field line to score Palacios and put Auburn in front. Following a ground ball that moved Ebert to third, Logan hit a deep fly ball to left field that Beau Jordan made a diving grab on. Ebert scored on the play, but it kept Auburn from having a really big inning.
A continuing problem arose again for Auburn in the second inning as they immediately gave the runs back as Antoine Duplantis singled to start the inning to bring Jordan to the plate. Getting a pitch over the plate, Jordan hit a bomb over the left field wall to tie the game at three.
Both pitchers settled in from that point forward until LSU broke through in the fifth with three runs. Already at his 50-pitch limit after throwing more than 100 pitches on Tuesday, Mitchell hit Bryce Jordan to start the inning before Chris Reid singled to left field. Closing in quickly with Jordan rounding third, Palacios booted the ball to allow both runners to move into scoring position.
Replacing Mitchell, Yarbrough gave up a single to center field and when Grier’s throw airmailed Logan at the plate LSU again had runners on second and third. Kramer Robertson singled home Reid to make it 5-3 LSU and when a ground ball added the third run Auburn was facing a three-run deficit.
Auburn finally got to Valek again in the sixth as they got a leadoff home run from Palacios to right field to get things going. It was the fifth of the year for Palacios and made it a two-run deficit. Another single by Ebert and a double by Logan put runners on second and third with just one out for Auburn. When Daniel Robert walked to load the bases that meant a pitching change for LSU with Alden Cartright coming to the mound.
Throwing just three pitches before an arm injury cut his day short, Cartright was replaced by Parker Bugg for LSU and he proceeded to walk Cody Nulph to force in a run and make it a 6-5 game. With Kyler Deese up with a chance to give the Tigers the lead he instead hit a ground ball to the first baseman. The force at home for out number two brought Jackson Burgreen up in a pinch hitting role for Auburn, but the senior struck out on three pitches to end the threat and keep Auburn down by a run.
“We left the bases loaded in the sixth,” Thompson said. “Maybe I should have let Damon hit there, but I don’t think the bottom of the lineup, those four spots, did a lot today. I brought a left-handed hitter in there and a senior to hit. We didn’t score and they hit a three-run home run. I thought that was the difference in the ballgame. That’s probably a coaching move on my part not putting us in the best spot.”
As has become the custom for this Auburn team they immediately gave the runs back. Hitting the leadoff man, Yarbrough allowed a single to Jake Fraley when Robert made a diving grab on a ground ball to first base but the pitcher was late covering the bag. It proved to be huge as Cardenas came on to face right-hander Jordan Romero and on the first pitch the catcher hit a bomb over the left field wall for his second home run of the series.
That gave LSU a commanding four-run lead and they would add a run in the eighth to make the final score 10-5 and earn the series win.
Auburn returns to action Tuesday night at 6 p.m. when the Tigers take on Georgia State at Plainsman Park.