Auburn, Ala.--Following a late collapse on Friday, the Auburn Tigers (11-5) turned the tables on visiting Presbyterian on Saturday with a four-run eighth inning to win 7-5 in comeback fashion and even the series with the Blue Hose. Despite making four errors and going just 4-19 with runners in scoring position for the game, Auburn found a way to win and Coach Butch Thompson said that started on the mound.
“I would just say our boys are battling and grinding,” Thompson said. “It’s not perfect, but I thought we came back today and at least battled during the ballgame. We outlasted and had a chance to win the ballgame late.
“I thought the pitchers pitched really good,” he said of starter Casey Mize and relievers Ryan Watson and Corey Herndon. “There wasn’t an earned run. When I spoke yesterday that was the whole focus of where my mind is at right now and trying to figure that out and for me to put our guys in the right positions.
“I thought Casey Mize threw the ball well. I thought if our defense had been what we’ve seen, I’m not so sure they score today but they did and extended some innings for sure. Ryan Watson, I thought that was another great day for him to grow up.”
Down by two and needing something positive to happen in the eighth inning, Auburn got it going thanks to the two most experienced players in the lineup. Leading off, senior Blake Logan singled through the left side and Damon Haecker was hit by a pitch to give the Tigers two runners on base with less than two outs for the fifth time in the game and set the table for Auburn’s big inning.
“I knew going into that inning and leading off that I had to get something started anyway I could whether it was getting hit, getting a hit, walking, I knew I had to get on base somehow,” Logan said. “I think it was a 1-1 count and he threw me another slider and I was just able to poke it through the hole. I’ll take anything I can to get that started.
“Then Hack getting hit was a big play for us,” he added. “Just getting a little spark going was a big thing.”
Back to the top of the order, Jonah Todd’s bunt was too good for the Blue Hose and he reached safely for his third hit of the game to load the bases with no outs. A walk to Joshua Anthony then forced home a run to cut the lead down to one and bring Daniel Robert to the plate.
Hitless on the day, Robert smashed a single to right field to score two runs and put Auburn in front 6-5. Second baseman Jay Estes finished off the scoring with a bases loaded sacrifice fly to put the Tigers in front by two. From there Herndon finished it off to earn his second save of the season and even the series with the Blue Hose.
The hangover from Friday’s loss was apparent early on Saturday as the Tigers couldn’t get anything going offensively against Presbyterian starter Tanner Chock despite his 0-2 record and 7.63 ERA.
It wasn’t for a lack of chances for the Tigers however as they had runners in scoring position early and often but just couldn’t get them in. After a quick 2-0 lead by Presbyterian in the first thanks to a Luke Jarvis error at short and a missed call at first on what would have been an inning-ending double play, Auburn got back-to-back singles from Bowen McGuffin and Dylan Ingram to give them two chances to get on the board but strikeouts by Luke Jarvis and Logan ended the threat.
In the third inning Auburn again got a pair of singles with one out to put them in business for the middle of the order but pop ups by Daniel Robert and Ingram left two more on base. Estes doubled with one out in the fourth, but would again be stranded to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard.
Finally the Tigers broke through in the fifth, but missed a golden opportunity to make it a big inning. With one out Todd’s second hit of the day got things started with a double to left field. Back-to-back walks to Josh Anthony and Robert then loaded the bases for Ingram.
A clutch player all season long, Ingram ripped a single to right field to score Todd and break up the shutout. With the bases still loaded Auburn had a chance to do some major damage, but McGuffin and Estes both struck out looking to once again end an inning for the Tigers.
With Mize still in control on the mound Auburn again got runners on base in the sixth against reliever Will Smith. Back-to-back singles from Logan and Haecker put two on for Todd but his ground ball left runners on the corners with two outs for Anthony.
Getting a pitch to handle, Anthony smoked a double to the gap in left-center to score both runners and put Auburn in front 3-2.
A team that has played good defense all season long, another error cost Mize and the Tigers in the top of the seventh. With two outs and nobody on Cletis Avery reached on the second error of the game by Jarvis and stole second. In the process the ball got by Haecker at the plate, allowing him to get to third. He then scored on a single off the glove of Estes at second to tie the game.
Auburn wasted another opportunity in the bottom of the seventh following a leadoff double by Ingram and it would prove costly thanks to more poor defense in the eighth.
With Watson on for Mize for the Tigers, a one-out walk turned into big trouble when Ingram dropped a throw from Anthony on what should have been the second out of the inning. It became a huge play when a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position with two outs.
That brought Jarvis’ nemesis to the plate and Avery found him again. Moving to his right Jarvis was shielded by the runner and the ball got by him, allowing two runs to score and put Presbyterian up 5-3.
Auburn would complete the comeback with a big eighth inning to even the series and send it to a rubber game on Sunday. The Tigers will send freshman Davis Daniel to the mound for the noon start.