Athens, Ga.--The Auburn Tigers (19-5, 4-0) got a two-out RBI single from Daniel Robert in the eighth inning and the big senior pitched one and one/third innings of relief to get the win on the mound as Coach Butch Thompson’s club came from behind to beat Georgia 2-1 on Friday night to earn their ninth straight win.
The 4-0 start marks the first time in school history Auburn has won its first four games in SEC play.
Struggling to get anything going all night long at the plate, Auburn finally got enough offense in the eighth inning to pull out the win, but none of it would have been possible without the performance of the bullpen.
Throwing just 49 pitches in four innings before coming out of the game after throwing four warm-up pitches to start the fifth, pitcher Keegan Thompson was pulled from the game with what his coach said was “precautionary” concerns. Allowing just three hits and no runs while striking out three in his four innings of work, Thompson’s start was an early bright spot and his teammates picked up the slack.
Ryan Watson, Calvin Coker, Corey Herndon, Robert and Cole Lipscomb combined to allow just one run on five hits in the final five innings to keep the Tigers in the game and allow the offense to do its thing.
With one of Auburn’s three hits in the first seven innings, shortstop Luke Jarvis got a pitch to handle and drove it to deep right-center field. Attempting a circus catch, Will Campbell couldn’t make the play and Jarvis never slowed down as he cruised into third with a leadoff triple.
Following a Conor Davis groundout, freshman Will Holland’s ground ball to Cam Shepherd had Jarvis dead to rights at the plate but catcher Austin Biggar lost the ball in the lights. The error not only allowed Jarvis to score, but Holland to cruise into second on the error.
Following an intentional walk to Jay Estes, Robert had a chance to help himself at the plate against big left-hander Blake Cairnes. Getting a 2-2 pitch on the inner half of the plate, Robert’s single scored Holland to put the Tigers in front.
Coming in to pitch in the seventh Robert pitched a scoreless eighth inning to give the Tigers a shot for the win. Senior Cole Lipscomb came on to pitch the ninth for Auburn and Georgia loaded the bases before Jonah Todd ran down a ball in deep center field to secure the win.
“Those guys hung in there,” Butch Thompson said of his team. “I know the question is coming, we were just precautionary with Keegan. We just felt like his arm was a little fatigued, a little tired there. I’ve got to get more information.
“We just started rifling through bullpen guys ‘just give me a few pitches and get me a couple of outs’. All the credit goes to our bullpen today. Maybe the brightest spot all night was Daniel Robert and the way he stepped up. He threw to a few hitters on Wednesday and it’s just starting to look better and better. He threw great and then got the game-winning hit.
“Luke Jarvis starting off that inning when nothing has happened all night. The guys hung in there and found a unique, new way to win. It was really neat.”
Early on Auburn’s offense was stymied by Georgia left-hander Andrew Gist. Entering the game with a 1-1 record and an ERA of 4.82, Gist pitched seven scoreless innings but his bullpen couldn’t hold the lead.
The issues on the mound likely started to come to a head for Keegan Thompson in the fourth inning when Georgia got back-to-back singles with one out to put the pressure on. With right fielder Will Campbell at the plate Thompson got the ground ball he was looking for, but Josh Anthony couldn’t get the ball out of his glove.
With the bases loaded following the error Anthony made up for his mistake as he snared an Aaron Shunk liner at third for the second out. Thompson finished off his night by getting a soft liner to Holland at second base to leave the bases loaded in a scoreless game.
Taking over for Keegan Thompson in the fifth, Watson retired the first batter he faced and got ahead of number nine hitter Will Proctor 0-2 before giving up a triple down the left field line. When Tucker Maxwell singled to left the Bulldogs had the 1-0 lead.
Auburn got out of a jam in the sixth that would have put the Tigers in serious trouble. Starting the inning on the mound, Coker allowed a pair of singles before giving way to Herndon with two outs. Facing former Auburn commitment Tucker Bradley, Herndon got him on a fly ball to Todd in center to end the threat.
Again in the seventh the Bulldogs threatened to break the game open. Allowing a pair of base runners, Herndon gave way to Robert with two outs and top power hitter Michael Curry at the plate. Doing his job, Robert got a ground ball to end the threat and leave two more on base for Georgia.
That would prove to be big as Auburn scored two runs in the eighth on the way to the win.
The Tigers go for the series win on Saturday with sophomore Casey Mize taking the mound against freshman Toney Locey for Georgia. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. central time.