Homewood, Ala.--Senior Daniel Robert had four RBI on Tuesday night, but it was his one inning on the mound that was the biggest part of the game for #10 Auburn as his scoreless ninth held off a furious Samford comeback as the Tigers escaped with a hard-fought 16-15 win.
Leading 8-1 and 16-8 at different times in the game, Auburn’s bullpen couldn’t get the job done as Samford fought back to make a game of it late but the Tigers were able to get out of town with the win thanks to one of the best offensive nights of the year.
Getting four hits each from Jonah Todd and Conor Davis with Davis adding four RBI, Auburn improved to 25-10 overall as the Tigers now prepare for a Thursday-Saturday series in Knoxville against the Tennessee Vols.
“When you’re up seven and up eight and wind up winning by one you don’t like those one-run victories, but we’ll take it,” Auburn Coach Butch Thompson said. “Daniel Robert was tremendous with the bat, in the field, and especially on the mound.
“Some of our guys had trouble getting out of innings, but all around I thought we got back to a great approach (at the plate). We didn’t swing at many balls outside of the strike zone outside of one or two guys. Our whole lineup got going again for the most part.”
It looked like the huge offensive night wasn’t going to matter for Auburn as Samford fought back from an eight-run deficit to cut the lead to just one heading to the ninth inning. After playing right field for the first eight innings in a game that lasted four hours, Robert walked to the mound in the ninth to try to slam the door.
“Once it looked like nobody was really interested in challenging with Samford swinging the bats so good, (Doug) Sisson and I sat there talking and we decided that Daniel Robert was out best competitor for the ninth inning,” Thompson said. “That’s my tip of the hat to him. I thought we put the ball in our best competitor’s hands.”
Leading off the ninth, former standout UMS-Wright running back Troy Dixon singled to center field to bring his brother T.J. Dixon to the plate. Working the count full, he lined a ball back up the middle that Robert snared. His throw to first completed the double play and essentially broke the back of the Bulldogs. He finished things off with a strikeout to earn the save.
“I had a little bit of jello legs out there,” Robert said. “I don’t think I was as sharp as I wanted to be, but I just got it done. You’ve got to give credit to Samford for never giving up. They’ve got tough bats all through their lineup.
“I was kind of tired so I was just trying to get something over the middle of the plate,” he added about the double play. “I think I got to 3-2 against T.J. He hit a line drive back to me and I got lucky and caught it. I don’t really know what else to say. I got a little lucky and the ball fell my way finally.”
Tied at one after the first inning, Auburn’s offense broke loose with a huge second inning to give the Tigers their first big advantage..
Leading off the inning Luke Jarvis singled before Samford starter Tristan Widra fell apart. Hitting Josh Anthony with a pitch before walking Blake Logan to load the bases, he then hit Bo Decker to force home a run and put Auburn in front 2-1. Todd followed with a sac fly to make it a two-run lead for the Tigers.
Coming on in relief, Jake Greer didn’t fare much better for the Bulldogs although he did retire the first two batters he faced before walking Robert to load the bases for Davis. That proved to be the wrong move as the freshman singled to make it a 4-1 Auburn lead and bring Ingram to the plate.
Tied for the team lead with just two home runs on the season, Ingram got a pitch to handle and hit a monster shot to left field to clear the bases. The grand slam was the first for an Auburn player since 2012 and gave the Tigers what should have been a commanding 8-1 advantage.
That wasn’t the case however as Auburn starter Christian Camacho allowed four hits and walked a batter while retiring just one in the second inning. By the time reliever Calvin Coker could put out the fire Samford had scored five runs to climb back into the game.
With the lead back down to just two runs, Davis delivered a two-run single with the bases loaded and two outs in the third to make it a 10-6 Auburn lead, but Samford would get both runs back in the fourth to climb back to within a pair of runs still early in the game.
In the fifth Auburn once again got a big home run to break away from the Bulldogs. Back-to-back singles from Todd and Jay Estes brought Robert to the plate with a chance to do some damage in his hometown. Getting ahead in the count against reliever Tanner Cunningham, Robert jumped all over an inside pitch and launched it over the right field wall for his third homer of the year.
The blast put Auburn back in front 13-8 but the Tigers weren’t done. In the sixth Blake Logan walked and with one out Todd sliced a ball down the left field line for a triple. Logan scored to push the lead back to six. An Estes single up the middle scored Todd for the second run of the inning. Putting the finishing touches on his huge night, Davis’ fly ball later in the inning scored Estes to make it 16-8 Auburn.
That looked to be a safe lead but nothing was safe on this night. Coming on to pitch the sixth, Corey Herndon allowed a run but it was the seventh when Samford got back into the game thanks to the long ball. Allowing a double and a single to open the inning, Herndon left a pitch over the plate and third baseman Taylor Garris didn’t miss it. His three-run bomb made it just a four-run game and when Ayrton Shafer followed with a solo shot the lead was down to 16-13.
Sending out Daniel Sprinkle for the eighth, Auburn only got two batters out of him before the call was made the Watson. Coming in following a single and a walk, Ryan Watson issued a one-out walk to load the bases and a single scored two runs to cut the lead down to just one. He recovered to get the final two outs, but heading to the ninth Auburn’s lead was down to 16-15 and Robert would finish things off.
The Tigers return to action Thursday night at 6 p.m. in the first of three games at Tennessee. Friday’s game is set for 5 p.m. with Saturday’s contest a 1 p.m. start. Thursday’s game can be seen on SEC Network.