Leading 2-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth inning, Auburn couldn't contain the LSU bats as they exploded for four runs in the biggest inning of the game. Auburn Coach Tommy Slater said that despite the loss he's proud of the way his team continued to battle in Saturday's contest.
"Last night they hit rockets all over the field early and we made a lot of nice defensive plays that kept us in the game," Slater said. "I thought tonight we hit a lot of balls well and they made a lot of plays, especially their shortstop (Michael) Hollander and a couple at third base. Last night we win and today they win.
" "Sully was good once again. It was nice to see him go out and pitch as well as he did. He didn't have his breaking ball as consistent today as he has the last couple of weekends, but he really battled for us."
Josh Sullivan's record drops to 4-2 after Saturday's loss.
At the plate for LSU the hitting star was Hollander. The shortstop's two-RBI single in the fifth inning tied the game and set the table for the Fighting Tigers to snatch the victory away from Auburn. Right fielder Nick Stavinoha added two hits for LSU. For Auburn it was catcher Josh Bell that had the big day. The junior had three hits, including a solo home run, and also drove in two of Auburn's three runs on the day. He said that he's disappointed with the loss, but he feels good about the way the team is playing going into Sunday's rubber game of the series.
"Dirks came out today, both him and Sully, knowing that they were going to have to battle the weather a little bit," Bell said. "They battled their butts off today. Dirks really did a great job of mixing the fastball in and out, and his defense played well behind him today.
"I'm getting a lot more confidence, but I just tried to get us back in the game today," he added. "It's just too bad it was a little too late in the game. I feel like we're going to come back tomorrow and hit the ground running and put forth a good effort and win the series tomorrow."
First baseman Karl Amonite continued his hot hitting for Auburn as he had two hits. The only other Auburn hits on the day came from Clete Thomas and Phillip Stringer as Dirks controlled things after getting hit early.
Amonite got Auburn going in the second inning off Dirks as he took a pitch the other way for a double off the base of the wall 405 feet from home plate. A ground ball by Josh Bell in front of the third baseman moved Amonite to third with just one out, giving Ben Sprague the RBI opportunity. Sprague continued his penchant for delivering in the clutch as he lifted a fly ball into center field that scored Amonite and put Auburn ahead 1-0.
Josh Bell throws out a LSU baserunner in Saturday's game.
Both Sullivan and Dirks cruised through the next two innings as Auburn entered the fifth with just Amonite's hit on the scoreboard while LSU had just two hits, back to back two-out singles in the first, to show for its day. Bell changed that with one swing in the fifth. Jumping on a breaking ball from Dirks to open the inning, Bell hit a bomb over the left field bleachers for his fifth home run of the season and third in three games. That gave the visiting Tigers a 2-0 lead with Sullivan cruising on the mound. Unfortunately for Auburn, the cruising would end in the bottom of the inning.
Leading off, catcher Matt Liuzza jumped all over a fastball and roped it into center field for a double. Sullivan then hurt himself with a mental error that keyed the LSU rally. Facing center fielder Bruce Sprowl, Sullivan got him to ground out to Amonite deep at first. The only problem was that Sullivan was late to the bag for the throw and Sprowl legged it out for a single. That kept LSU going and a walk to number nine hitter Quinn Stewart only added fuel to the fire.
Lead-off man Michael Hollander singled up the middle to score both Liuzza and Sprowl. Blake Gill followed with a slow roller to Sullivan that moved both runners up, setting the stage for hot hitting Ryan Patterson. A check-swing away from having the strikeout, Sullivan got Patterson to ground out to Adam Stacey at short, but Stewart scored to give LSU the lead. A Stacey error on a ground ball by Clay Harris allowed Hollander to score as well, giving LSU a 4-2 lead after five innings of play.
Dirks escaped trouble in the top of the seventh inning on his way to the victory. Amonite led off with a sharp single to center field and Bell followed with a single to center as well, bringing up the bottom of the Auburn order. Unlike Friday night's game, the bottom didn't deliver this time around as Sprague popped up on a 2-0 pitch for the first out of the inning. Jeff Boutwell then followed by hitting a one-hop ground ball on the bag at third. Gill stepped on the bag and threw to first for the inning-ending double play.
LSU added two runs in the eighth inning to put the game away. A late run by Auburn made the final score 6-3 LSU. The loss drops Auburn to 18-8 overall and 2-3 in SEC play while LSU improves to 19-5, 4-1 in the league. Auburn sends left-hander Josh Blake to the mound looking for just its third series win in the last two seasons. The first pitch on Easter Sunday is scheduled for 1 p.m.