Baton Rouge, La.--It has been 19 years since Auburn swept LSU on the road but Sunday the Tigers will have that opportunity after a big 7-0 victory Saturday at Alex Box Stadium earned Auburn the series win with one game remaining. Auburn freshman starter Taylor Thompson picked up his fourth victory of the season after pitching six shutout innings and fellow freshman Dustin Spruill had a big two-out base hit as, with the win, Auburn improves to 23-11 overall, 3-8 in SEC play. LSU falls to 17-15-1, 3-7-1 in league action.
Following up a fantastic performance by Paul Burnside Friday night, Thompson was equally as impressive in just his second SEC start. Just missing getting the victory last Sunday against Ole Miss when he left the game one out shy of getting the required five innings in, Thompson didn't have that problem on Saturday. He was strong throughout his six innings before giving way to Brett Butts to finish off the win. Coach Tommy Slater says for the second-straight day Auburn got just what it needed out of a starting pitcher.
"Taylor was really good," Slater says. "It was exciting to see him go out and continue to duplicate what he's been doing all season in the mid week and go out in his second SEC start and have a really solid outing for us. I'm really proud of Taylor Thompson today."
Just like they did on Friday in the series opener, Auburn struck first on Saturday thanks to part of the freshman contingent on the roster. With one out in the second inning, Joseph Sanders worked a walk from LSU starter Ryan Byrd to bring Friday's offensive hero Robert Brooks to the plate. Deciding to be aggressive, Sanders stole second base to move into scoring position. That's all Brooks needed as he delivered a sharp single to left field that scored Sanders to put Auburn up 1-0.
The defense made one of several great plays to save a run in the third inning as a two-out single by Jared Mitchell put LSU in business as he quickly stole second base to move into scoring position for Chris Jackson. Getting a pitch to hit, Jackson drove a fly ball into left-center field. Running the ball down, Auburn center fielder Bruce Edwards made a diving catch to end the inning and save a run. Thompson says the play was one of several that set the tone for his outing on Saturday.
"That's a pitcher's best friend," Thompson says. "Getting a double play and having a fast center fielder like that. It's good team ball and I'm glad he was out there to catch that ball."
With LSU still scoreless, Auburn came back for more in the fourth as left fielder Luke Greinke led off the inning with a single to left field to bring Josh Donaldson to the plate. Still looking for his first hit of the weekend, Donaldson jumped on a pitch and lined it into the gap in left field for his 14th double of the season. Greinke scored on the play to give Auburn a two-run lead. A walk to Dustin Spruill then gave Auburn a chance for a big inning but a failed bunt attempt by Sanders cost Auburn dearly as Donaldson got caught trying to steal third for the second out of the inning. After a walk to Brooks, a Ross Smith fly ball to left brought the inning to a close with Auburn up 2-0.
LSU threatened in the bottom of the fourth as Blake Dean led off with a bloop single just over the head of Donaldson at third base but the pitcher's best friend was there for Thompson as he got Sean Ochinko to hit into a 6-4-3 double play. It was a big play for Auburn as Steven Waugespack lined a single into right field with two outs and stole second to move into scoring position. Just like he had done all day, Thompson came through in the clutch by striking out Ryan Schimpf to end the threat with Auburn still up 2-0.
The lead would be extended in the top of the fifth and once again the damage was done by a freshman. Leading off the inning, catcher Ryan Jenkins singled to bring Phillip Stringer to the plate. Playing small ball, Stringer moved Jenkins to second with a sacrifice bunt. A walk to Edwards would be the end of the day as Nolan Cain came on in relief for LSU to face the heart of the Auburn order. With runners on first and second and one out, Greinke swung and made contact with the ball just bouncing in front of the plate. The catcher got to the ball and tagged Greinke out but not before both runners advanced into scoring position.
Playing the odds, LSU decided to walk Donaldson with no Mike Bianucci in the Auburn lineup. The move proved to be a fatal one for LSU as Spruill jumped on a fastball and lined it into right field for a single. Jenkins easily scored on the play and with the speedy Edwards on second, LSU's Waugespack tried to scoop and throw in right field. The only problem was he forgot the baseball. The error allowed Donaldson to score all the way from first and Spruill to advance to third. A Sanders strikeout brought the inning to an end but Auburn now led 5-0.
"We would have scored two runs for sure and the error lets us score three," Slater says. "Dustin really swings the bat well. He's aggressive and never gets cheated at the plate. He's not scared. That's why I'm hitting him behind Donaldson with ‘Nuch' out. One thing I know about Spruill is he's not afraid and he's going to get his hacks in. He got a pitch he could handle and hit that ball well."
Dustin Spruill had the big hit in Saturday's game.
Thompson had his only one-two-three inning in the fifth but wouldn't be as fortunate in the sixth as LSU once again threatened but failed to score. With one out, Jackson singled to right field. Auburn almost got the inning-ending double play with Dean at the plate but he just beat Stringer's throw from the second base bag to keep the inning going. An Ochinko single followed by a wild pitch from Thompson gave LSU two runners in scoring position with Waguespack coming to the plate. Already his longest career outing, Thompson remained in the game. He would finish the day without allowing a run as a diving grab by Sanders in foul territory kept the lead at five.
With Butts on in relief and keeping LSU at bay, Auburn got some insurance in the eighth inning and following the trend of the day it was the freshmen that came through. Back-to-back singles by Sanders and Brooks plated a run as Sanders moved into scoring position with a stolen base and scampered home on the Brooks hit. Then the circus began as Brooks moved to second and then to third on wild pitches. Attempting to cut down Brooks at third base, the LSU catcher threw the ball into left field to score Brooks and put Auburn up 7-0. Despite some struggles in the ninth, Butts closed the door on LSU to preserve the Auburn victory.
Auburn will go for the series sweep against LSU Sunday at 1 p.m. when sophomore Justin Bristow (1-2, 5.48 ERA) takes the mound against T.J. Forrest (1-1, 3.18).