Tuscaloosa, Ala.--Needing a big day on the mound from its starter, the Auburn Tigers got just that as Ben Braymer allowed just one run in six innings as Coach Butch Thompson’s team salvaged the Sunday game with an 8-1 win over Alabama. It was a day that saw Auburn’s offense answer the ball against one of the top pitchers in the Southeastern Conference as the Tigers pounded out 10 hits in the win.
Niko Buentello and Kyler Deese led the way with three hits each and Buentello added four RBI to push his team lead to 47 this year. Anfernee Grier and Melvin Gray each had two hits to account for the rest of Auburn’s total.
“It was a good solid win,” Thompson said. “We didn’t walk anybody today and it was important. This was a big one for our guys just to keep battling. Our execution, our depth, our development...so many areas need to improve for our program, but the resiliency of our guys, I will never run from them and I’ll always make that case.
“We’ve had too much practice with it,” he added of coming back from the tough loss. “As a coach you try to continue to be a leader and a foundation and provide energy for these players, but we’ve had some tough ones. (Saturday) night was no different, but we’re trying to teach life lessons through this.
“I keep telling them they are good players and capable and so close," Thompson said. "A day like today really makes you go back and with my 15 years you say, ‘man we should have gotten two out of three.’ I’m really pleased with how we came out and competed and battled today.”
The victory improves Auburn’s record to 21-26 overall and 8-16 in SEC play and was an impressive comeback for a team that suffered a heartbreaking loss on Saturday. A key for that was the pitching of Braymer, who said it was an important day for the team.
“I think as we were preparing for this one we just had a chip on our heart as a team,” Braymer said. “Last night was a really tough loss and we came out here fired up and ready to play. We played a really clean, hard game and the results showed.”
Finishing things on the mound for the Tigers was a combination of Daniel Robert and Daniel Sprinkle. Pitching two scoreless innings before turning things over to Sprinkle in the ninth, Robert was very impressive in just his third outing of the year. Thompson said as he continues to develop on the mound it could be something that helps this team in a big way down the stretch.
“I really wanted to send him back out there for the ninth, but we’ve only thrown the five bullpens,” Thompson said. “We’ve been using him two or three hitters at a time and he threw 21 pitches. He was shaking that arm and we’re going to bring that thing along slowly, but I think if you were watching it was pretty special. He got low 90’s with movement and sink.”
It didn’t take long for Auburn to get over the disappointment of Saturday night’s loss as the Tigers jumped on top right out of the gate on Sunday. Back in the leadoff spot, Grier singled to bring Gray to the plate. Getting a pitch to turn on, Gray roped one just inside the third base bag for a double to score Grier and put Auburn on the scoreboard. Later in the inning Buentello’s sacrifice fly made it a two-run first inning for the Tigers.
Already getting to Tide pitcher Nick Eicholtz, who entered with a 1.89 ERA, Auburn continued that in the third inning as Grier singled and stole second with one out before a Jordan Ebert walk brought Buentello to the plate with a chance to do more damage. Already with three doubles on the weekend, Buentello turned on a fastball and drove it to the wall in right field for another double.
Grier and Ebert both scored on the play and when the throw went to the plate it allowed Buentello to advance to third. That proved to be a big play as a Damon Haecker walked to put runners on the corners. Putting on a play, Auburn sent Haecker to second and when Alabama catcher Will Haynie threw down it allowed Buentello to score from third to make it a 5-0 lead for the Tigers.
Rolling through four scoreless innings, Braymer ran into his first trouble in the fifth as Chance Vincent’s slow roller to the left of the mound put the pressure on the pitcher coming off the mound.
He fielded and threw wild at first, allowing Vincent to advance to second. Following a groundout and pop-up, Braymer uncorked a wild pitch to allow Vincent to score and break up the shutout. Alabama added a pair of singles to put the pressure on, but Braymer got a strikeout to end the threat and effectively shut the door on the Crimson Tide.
Auburn added to its lead in the seventh as Deese continued his big day with a leadoff single. He would later score on a Gray single to push the lead to five for the Tigers. One inning later it was Deese at the plate that did the damage as his single scored Jackson Burgreen to make it a 7-1. Buentello would finish off the scoring for the Tigers in the ninth with a single to score Ebert to push the lead to seven. Sprinkle would finish it off to secure the win.
Auburn returns to action this week with a pair of mid-week games. The Tigers will face Troy on Tuesday and Kennesaw State on Wednesday with both games slated for 6 p.m. CDT starts.