Baton Rouge, La.--For much of Friday night Auburn junior Keegan Thompson was dominant, but LSU made him pay for two mistakes as Zach Watson and Michael Papierski both hit two-run home runs, the second breaking a tie game in the seventh inning, as Auburn fell 5-3 to drop their second-straight SEC series and sixth-straight game overall.
With the loss Auburn falls to 32-20 overall and 14-12 in SEC play. LSU has now beaten Auburn in 13 of the last 15 meetings with five straight series wins.
Pitching seven innings, Keegan Thompson allowed just six hits but throw in a pair of walks that both scored on home runs and it was that kind of night for an Auburn team that continues a slide that now has reached six games in a row. In first place in the SEC standings before last weekend, Auburn now finds itself just two games over .500 in league play and desperately needs to salvage Saturday’s game to avoid a second consecutive sweep.
“Efficient,” Coach Butch Thompson said of Keegan Thompson’s performance. “I know he only had four strikeouts and two walks. Both walks were to start and inning and they really wanted to hit-and run early in the count.
“The two home runs, the nine-hole with the runner on second base and then Papierski’s after we worked so hard to tie it,” he added. “I thought outside of those two swings he was about as efficient as he’s been. He’s a great competitor and showed that again tonight.”
At the plate Auburn got four hits from Jonah Todd at the top of the lineup to raise his average to .391 for the year and two from Jay Estes in the eight-hole, but once again the Tigers struggled to get the big hit.
A team that has shown plenty of power as of late with 15 home runs in its last 16 games entering the series, Auburn is now just 17-16 this season in games when they don’t hit a home run. Compare that with a 15-4 record in games when they do and you have the recipe for this team’s success.
“They left the yard,” Butch Thompson said. “They hit two home runs and we didn’t. We had two more hits than they did tonight, but they hit two big ones in the ballgame.”
Early on Auburn gave themselves chances to get on the board first with leadoff singles from Todd in the first inning and Dylan Ingram in the second, but double plays erased both to keep Auburn off the scoreboard.
After two perfect innings on the mound, Keegan Thompson ran into some trouble in the third when he walked number eight hitter Michael Papierski to bring nine-hole hitter Zach Watson to the plate. Putting the runner in motion, LSU got a break when Watson’s line drive was just off the glove of a diving Josh Anthony at third base.
The single rolled into the outfield, allowing Papierski to move around to third base. With runners on the corners and one out, LSU again put the runner on first in motion as Kramer Robertson’s ground ball scored Papierski to put Auburn in a hole once again.
In the fourth Auburn again had a great scoring opportunity against Poche after both Daniel Robert and Conor Davis walked to start the inning. Following an Ingram fly ball to right field to move Robert up to third, Auburn decided to do some running of their own as Davis took off from first on a hit-and-run. The only problem was that Anthony swung through the breaking ball and Davis was caught stealing. An Anthony groundout ended the threat with Auburn trailing by one.
It wouldn’t take long for LSU to add to its lead and once again it was the bottom of the order that did the damage. With one out in the fifth Beau Jordan reached on an infield single before Keegan Thompson came back to strike out Michael Papierski. That brought Watson back to the plate and for the second time in the game he got the best of the Auburn junior, lifting a pitch over the left field wall for a two-run homer to make it a 3-0 hole for Auburn.
In the sixth Auburn finally broke through against Poche with Todd and Robert opening the inning with singles. With Todd on first, Robert’s single went off the glove of Watson at third and bounced into foul territory in left field. For a second Todd thought about running for third, but remained at second.
Following a Davis groundout to retire Robert at second, Ingram’s fly ball to right field was deep enough to easily score Todd and put Auburn on the board. But the visiting Tigers weren’t done.
In the seventh the first two Auburn hitters were retired before Estes’ second single of the game chased Poche in favor of reliever Zack Hess.
A vacuum cleaner all night at third, LSU’s Josh Smith got a one-hopper from Will Holland for what looked to be an easy third out, but his throw was in the dirt and bounced down the right field line. Never slowing down, Estes scored all the way from first and Holland advanced to third. That brought Todd to the plate and Auburn’s leading hitter stroked a single to left to score Holland and tie the game at three.
That set the table for LSU’s second big fly of the game that proved to be the game winner.
Auburn will look to avoid the sweep on Saturday with sophomore Casey Mize getting the call for the Tigers on the mound. He’s 6-1 on the season with a 1.39 ERA. First pitch is scheduled for noon on SEC Network.
“Keep playing,” Butch Thompson said of his message to the team. “Looking through the windshield and rip the rearview mirror off and throw it out the window. I thought we played better these two days.
“Our offense has to score some runs. We’ve scored three runs now in two games. That’s hard to win at home, on the moon, on the road at Alex Box Stadium. We’ve just got to keep going until it happens for us.”