Comeback Gives AU Series Win At LSU

Baton Rouge, Ala.-–The <A HREF=>Auburn</A> Tigers scored five runs in the last three innings to come back from a four-run deficit to defeat the <A HREF=>LSU</A> Tigers 7-5 Sunday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium. <p>

The victory improves Auburn's record to 19-8 overall and 3-3 in SEC play. The series win is the fourth for Auburn in its last seven trips to Baton Rouge, a place where LSU has lost just 11 SEC series since 1993. Nobody has won more SEC series in Baton Rouge and Auburn Coach Tommy Slater said none was sweeter than this weekend's performance by his team.

"It's a great win, what can you say," Slater said. "It was a total team effort. A lot of guys played and a lot of guys contributed. Our bullpen was outstanding. (Josh) Blake keeps hitting that wall in the third inning, and we have to address that, but (Cliff) Mullins, (Jared) Shore, (Michael) Nix and John Madden had one inning for us. It was just a really good win for our team."

Pitching two innings, allowing just one hit and no runs, Nix picked up his fourth victory of the season. Madden earned his fourth save of the year as well. All told, the Auburn bullpen gave up just six hits in six and two/thirds innings on Sunday. Slater said that was the story of the day for the Tigers as they shut down the vaunted LSU offense time and time again.

"You have to credit our bullpen for keeping the game under control for us," Slater said. "The credit goes to Mullins, Shore and to Nix for keeping us right there and for us continuing to have good at-bats and battle. Our focus was good, our concentration was good and not one kid hung their head. Everyone was confident that as long as we kept it at 5-1 we could come back and win. That's what I love about these guys."

Phillip Stringer blasts one of his two doubles on the day. Auburn had five doubles in Sunday's game, which matched its total from the previous five SEC games to start this season.

Trailing 5-3 heading to the top of the eighth, things looked bleak for Auburn as LSU was looking to close out the series. But Auburn wasn't ready to give in just yet. Looking for a better matchup at the plate against reliever Justin Meier, Slater sent pinch-hitter Joey Huskins to the plate to lead off the inning. Huskins responded with a double into left-center to get the inning started. One out later Phillip Stringer delivered with a double of his own, just inside the first base bag, to score Huskins and cut the lead to just one.

Meier got third baseman Josh Donaldson to pop up for the second out of the inning, but Auburn refused to fold. Center fielder Bruce Edwards hit a high hopper over the mound for an infield single that put the tying run at third base with two outs with Tyler Johnstone at the plate. Edwards quickly advanced to second on a wild pitch, a play that would become important as Johnstone singled into center field with two strikes to score both runners and give Auburn the 6-5 lead and what would prove to be the game-winning moment.

"He came in the last two pitches and all I thought was, 'Don't strike out,'" Johnstone said. "I choked up on the bat and got closer to the plate. I just wanted to make solid contact and stay back. I knew he was going to try to get me to chase something. He threw me a high fastball in. I just kept my hands back and stayed on it. Luckily it fell in."

Auburn and reliever Michael Nix had one moment of drama in the bottom of the eighth as designated hitter Jordan Mayer took a fastball for a ride with one out in the inning and down one run. With a strong wind blowing in, Edwards was able to track down the ball just in front of the 405 feet mark in left-center field. On many other days the hit would have probably tied the game, but on this afternoon it became just a very loud out.

Madden came on in the ninth inning to slam the door on LSU for his fourth save of the season. He said that getting the series victory at LSU is a big stepping stone for this Auburn team.

"It's a great victory for us," Madden said. "LSU is a great team, probably one of the better teams we'll face all year. To come and take two out of three from them is good for us. We just have to get ready for the Tuesday game and see what we can do."

Auburn got on board first in Sunday's game thanks to production out of the bottom of the order. After starting the first two games of the series at third base, Stringer moved to short for the last game of the series with true freshman Donaldson getting the call at third. The move proved to be a good one for Auburn as Stringer doubled with one out in the second inning to get the visiting Tigers going.

Facing the hard-throwing Smith, Stringer jumped on a fastball and drove it to the base of the wall 405 feet from home plate bringing Donaldson to the plate. Hitting just .207 on the year, Donaldson roped a double into right field that scored Stringer for the game's first hit.

Josh Blake got the start for Auburn and pitched well until running into trouble in the third inning.

Blake cruised through the second inning against LSU, but he wouldn't make it out of the third as the second time through the order proved to be too much to handle on this day. Will Harris led off the inning with a sharp single on the first pitch from Auburn starter Josh Blake. That was a sign of things to come for LSU as, following a Quinn Stewart strikeout, Blake hit Michael Hollander with a pitch to put runners on first and second with one out. A single by Blake Gill up the middle scored Harris to tie the game, but unfortunately for Auburn LSU was just getting started.

Leading hitter Ryan Patterson was up next and he came through with a single of his own to score another run and leave the bases loaded for Clay Harris. Jumping on a breaking ball, Harris lined a single just in front of Ben Sprague in left field for another single to score another run for LSU. That was the last batter Blake would face as freshman Cliff Mullins came on in relief. His first batter faced was a success as he got Nick Stavinoha to ground out to Donaldson at third base for out number two, but Matt Liuzza doubled home a pair of runs before the inning was done as LSU took a commanding 5-1 lead into the fourth inning.

Auburn got one run back in the top of the fifth with the bottom of the order again setting the table for the Tigers. With one out in the inning number nine hitter Edwards walked to give his team some life. Lead-off man Johnstone followed with a double into left-center field that moved Edwards all the way to third with the heart of the Auburn order coming to the plate. It wasn't to be on this day though as Clete Thomas ground out to Hollander at short for the inning's second out and then, following a Karl Amonite walk, Josh Bell struck out to end the Auburn threat. Trailing 5-2, Auburn was hoping to mount a charge against LSU with just four at-bats remaining.

The charge came in the seventh when once again Edwards got things going. With one out in the inning he took a Smith pitch the other way. Trying to rob Edwards of a hit, Stavinoha dove at the ball and it got by him into the right field corner. That's all Edwards needed as he cruised into third base with a triple.

Johnstone followed with a single into right field that scored Edwards and cut the lead to just two. A golden opportunity would go by the wayside for Auburn though as, following a Thomas hit-by-pitch, Amonite struck out and Bell popped up to first to end the threat, but Auburn would eventually get the big hit and come away with the victory.

Auburn returns to action Tuesday night when the Tigers face the Samford Bulldogs at Plainsman Park. Next weekend the Arkansas Razorbacks come to town for a three-game series in Auburn. Game times for the weekend series are 7 p.m. on Friday, 4 p.m. on Saturday and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. The game time on Sunday is to allow for Arkansas to travel.

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