Knoxville, Tenn.--It wasn’t easy but the #10 Auburn Tigers got a huge Thursday night road win 3-2 over Tennessee to open the series as sophomore Casey Mize pitched six shutout innings to lead the way for Coach Butch Thompson’s team. With the win they improve to 26-10 overall, 9-4 in SEC play, and 11-2 in one-run games this season.
Entering with a 5-1 record and an ERA of just 1.37 on the season, Mize was dominant from the start against the Vols as he struck out seven and allowed just three hits on 82 pitches before giving way to the Auburn bullpen with a three-run advantage.
Pitching two scoreless innings of relief, senior Cole Lipscomb ran into trouble in the ninth with Tennessee scoring a pair of runs to cut the Auburn lead to just one. Entering the game with the tying run at first, Andrew Mitchell slammed the door on Tennessee to give Auburn its ninth SEC win of the season after winning just eight a season ago.
At the plate the Tigers got a big night from shortstop Luke Jarvis with a solo homer in the second and a triple to led to Auburn’s third and final run of the game in the seventh inning. Third baseman Josh Anthony also had a pair of doubles for the Tigers as they finished with seven hits against the Vols, but the story was all Mize and some clutch hits said Thompson.
“We did enough,” Thompson said. “Luke Jarvis had a big night with the home run and had the triple down the right field line and Josh Anthony had a double to both sides of the field. That was a good night. We did enough to score and Casey Mize gave us another great six innings, especially with what he’s done the last three weeks.
“Cole did a nice job in the seventh and eighth and went out there for the ninth and scared us a little bit. We knew Derkay (Tennessee left-handed batter Peter Derkay) they wouldn’t pinch-hit for him so it was up to Andrew to get us those last two big outs. I’m thankful because it felt like the home team thought they were rallying for a chance to win. Andrew really did a good job in the ninth for us.”
Coming off throwing 113 pitches last week in a win at Texas A&M and 120 the week before in a complete game win over South Carolina, Mize came out after just six innings despite his low pitch count. Thompson said that was the plan all along because they’re in this thing for the long haul.
“Now we get an extra day rest,” Thompson said of not playing until Friday next week. “He threw six innings and 82 pitches tonight. If he throws another one (inning) that’s all he gives you anyway. We had to skirt around one inning and it was kind of close to the finish line, but I think we did the right thing moving forward.”
Tennessee got a great start from senior right-hander Hunter Martin to keep the Vols in the game on Thursday night and allow them to make things interesting in the ninth. Entering the game with a 3.56 ERA, Martin allowed just three runs on seven hits on 117 pitches in a complete game effort.
Auburn got off to a great start on Thursday night thanks to the extra-base hit. Leading off the game, Jonah Todd laced a double to right field to move into scoring position right out of the gate. Still on second with two outs, Todd was looking for freshman Conor Davis to get the job done and he mashed a ball off the left field wall for a double to put the Tigers in front early.
In the second inning Auburn added to its lead with one swing of the bat. Up with one out and nobody on, Jarvis got a hanging breaking ball and launched it over the left field wall for his third home run of the season to put the Tigers ahead 2-0.
It took five innings for Auburn’s offense to get to Martin again and Jarvis was at the center of it for the Tigers. With one out in the seventh the shortstop took an outside pitch and laced it down the right field line. Never slowing down, he slid into third for a triple to give Auburn another great scoring threat.
Auburn’s catcher for Mize, senior Damon Haecker got the job done as his fly ball to left field was deep enough to score Jarvis and give the Tigers a three-run lead.
That’s how things would remain until the ninth when Tennessee took advantage of a four-pitch leadoff walk by Lipscomb to get a rally going. The Vols’ leading hitter, Jordan Rodgers followed with a double to put runners on second and third with nobody out.
Following a ground ball to score Tennessee’s first run, Andre Lipcius singled home Rodgers to put the tying run on first with one out. Coming on to finish things off, Mitchell struck out Derkay before getting Dom Thornton on a fly ball to secure the win.
The Tigers will send junior Keegan Thompson (4-1, 1.27 ERA) to the mound for Friday’s 5 p.m. start as Auburn looks for its second road series win of the year. He’ll face off against freshman Garrett Stallings (2-0, 3.00) for the Vols.