Auburn, Ala.--A two out, two strike double by Lipscomb's Caleb Joseph in the top of the 12th inning scored Ben Williams with the game winning run as the Bison knocked Auburn from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 4-3 victory at Plainsman Park. Lipscomb improves to 2-2 on the season while Auburn falls to 3-1 overall. Coach Tommy Slater says that Wednesday's game was a case of his team not playing well and taking advantage of opportunities when they had them offensively.
"This weekend against Hofstra we had 144 plate appearances and only 20 fly ball outs," Slater says. "Tonight we had 13 fly ball outs. That's the story of the game. They made six errors. Every time we hit the ball hard on the ground they were struggling to catch it. We left 13 runners on tonight. We certainly had opportunities to score. We just didn't get it done, bottom line."
On the mound true freshman Taylor Thompson got the start for the Tigers and had a solid first outing. In four and two/thirds innings of work Thompson allowed just two runs on four hits while striking out four Bison hitters. Relievers Brett Butts, Evan Crawford, Scott Shuman and Johnny Thompson allowed two runs over the final eight innings in an outing that Slater says was very good considering the circumstances.
"Taylor Thompson was very, very good in his first college start," Slater says. "I'm very proud of him. Scott Shuman was once again was dynamite out of the bullpen. Brett did a nice job for his one/third of an inning coming in and Johnny competed like he always does for us. He made a two strike mistake and the kid raked it down the left field line. Those things happen."
Taylor Thompson had a very good first outing for the Tigers.
Offensively the Tigers struggled against Lipscomb's pitchers as the Tigers had just seven hits in 12 innings. Both Josh Donaldson and Robert Brooks had two hits each for an Auburn attack that didn't do a good job of hitting with runners on base. Despite getting just seven hits the Tigers left 13 runners on base thanks to six Lipscomb errors. Slater says that is the most disappointing thing about Wednesday's loss.
"The story for me is poor offense," Slater says. "We had poor approaches. I was so happy with our offense all weekend long and understand that it's the approach that I was happy with. I wasn't giddy because we scored triple digits in three games, what I was really excited about was the fact that we had so few fly balls. We work extremely hard on being a line drive club and we didn't do a good job of that tonight."
Getting his first career appearance Thompson got off to a good start on a cold afternoon at Plainsman Park. Cruising early, the Montgomery native got through the first three innings without giving up a run. That allowed his offense to finally get to Lipscomb starter John King but not without a lot of help from the Lipscomb defense.
With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the third inning designated hitter Luke Greinke reached on an error by third baseman Donnie Amos. A red hot Donaldson followed with a smash that Amos again mishandled for an error to put runners on first and second with two outs. A wild pitch with Mike Bianucci at the plate moved both runners up into scoring position with a walk to Bianucci once again loading the bases.
Another wild pitch pushed across Greinke with the first run of the game to give Auburn a 1-0 lead. Following a walk to Andy Bennett, Brooks came through with a sharp single to left field that easily scored Donaldson to make it 2-0. Looking to add to the lead Bianucci was thrown out at the plate to end the inning with Auburn up by two.
Impressive in his first start Thompson would finally show a weakness in the fifth as Lipscomb got the offense going. With one out in the inning designated hitter Ryan Williams singled to center field but was quickly retired on a fielder's choice off the bat of Allen Bolden. Seeing his first action of the season number nine hitter Kevin Gavigan doubled home Bolden to put Lipscomb on the board. Another double, this one by Ben Williams, tied the score at two as Thompson's day was done. Butts came on to finish the fifth and gave way to Crawford to start the sixth.
Back on the mound Crawford did his job with a scoreless sixth, setting the Tigers up to take the lead back in the bottom of the inning. Leading off the frame Brooks again was clutch as the Enterprise native ripped a single to left field before stealing second. Following an Eric Skinner strike out fellow freshman Ross Smith's double off the monster in left field scored Brooks to give Auburn back the lead at 3-2.
Following another scoreless seventh from Crawford and by the Auburn offense, Shuman came on to start the eighth. Throwing well Shuman got Caleb Joseph on strikes to open the inning but the ball got by Donaldson allowing him to reach first base. Another passed ball charged to Donaldson then put him on second with nobody out. A single by Justin Sanders gave Lipscomb first and third with nobody out for Branden Cadavid. Executing the sac bunt to perfection Cadavid tied the score at three. From there Shuman would get out of the inning with no more damage as the score remained tied at three.
Despite chances for both sides the game would stay knotted until the top of the 12th inning when Lipscomb would take the lead for good off Thompson. With one out in the inning Ben Williams reached on an error by Brooks at second. After a strike out of Casey Bond, Thompson made the only mistake of his outing when he left a 0-2 pitch over the plate to Joseph. The catcher pulled the pitch down the left field line for a double that scored Williams to give Lipscomb a 4-3 lead. Closer Taylor Merry came on to shut down the Tigers in the bottom of the 12th to give his team the win.
Auburn will return to action Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. when they take on UNC-Greensboro in the first of a three game series at Plainsman Park. Game times are 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. The pitching rotation for the Tigers will be Bryan Woodall on Friday, Paul Burnside on Saturday and Crawford on Sunday.