Baton Rouge, Ala.--As good as the Auburn Tigers played in winning the first two games of the series at LSU, that was as bad as the performance was on Sunday as they committed five errors in a 10-1 loss at Alex Box Stadium. LSU freshman and Hueytown native Jared Bradford was the star of the game as he moved from the bullpen to a starting role and allowed just one run in seven innings and struck out nine to help his team avoid the sweep at the hands of Auburn.
"He did a good job," Coach Tommy Slater says of Bradford. "It's clearly evident that he's one of their best arms. It was a good move by them today to not let him close today and instead let him start."
Despite the loss Auburn earned its first series win of the SEC season and comes out of the weekend 23-12 overall, 3-9 in conference action. LSU improves to 18-15-1, 4-7-1 in SEC play. Slater says although his team got the series victory they're not happy with the way they played on Sunday with a chance to earn the sweep.
"It was very disappointing, the loss today," Slater says. "We did play well on Friday and we played well on Saturday. We got outstanding pitching efforts from both Paul (Burnside) and Taylor (Thompson). I wasn't discouraged by Justin's outing today. We just need to do a better job of coming out on a Sunday and being ready to play defensively behind us. Defense is where your mental aptitude and your ability to concentrate shows up. With five errors on the scoreboard today, it is clearly evident that we were not ready, mentally, to play today."
Much like Auburn had done the first two days of the series, LSU took the early lead against Auburn starter Justin Bristow and the pitching of Bradford made it stand up. With one out in the first inning, Jared Mitchell reached on an error by Robert Brooks at second base to set the tone for what would be a rough day for the Tigers all the way around. It would only get worse in the first as an error by Josh Donaldson behind the plate allowed the speedy Mitchell to advance all the way to third with one out. He would later score on a sacrifice fly by Jason Lewis to give LSU the 1-0 lead.
With Bradford dominating Auburn early, LSU came back with another single run in the top of the third on a Michael Hollander solo home run to left field. Bristow recovered to keep LSU scoreless the rest of the third despite a single and a hit-by-pitch but he wouldn't be as fortunate in the fourth when the home standing Tigers broke the game open with four big runs.
Leading off the inning, Robert Lara singled to center field to start what would become the big inning of the game. Up next Ryan Schrimf reached on the second error of the day by Brooks at second base. That was when second baseman Chris McGhee came through with the hit of the day. Getting a pitch to drive to right field, McGhee tripled just out of the reach of a diving Ross Smith. Both runs scored on the hit to push the lead to four. After getting Hollander on a pop up, Chris Jackson singled home McGhee to end the day for Bristow after just three and one/third innings. Reliever Bryan Woodall quickly gave up a double to Mitchell to score McGhee. Attempting to steal third, McGhee drew a wild throw from Donaldson that went into left field allowing him to score the fourth run of the inning. Just like that, LSU was up 6-0.
Auburn finally managed to get on the board against Bradford but it took until the sixth inning for it to happen. Leading off the frame, Bruce Edwards lined a single up the middle. After moving to second on a bunt by Luke Greinke, Edwards was joined on the bases by Dustin Spruill as he worked a walk to put two runners on for Joseph Sanders. The only Tiger with two hits on the day, Sanders singled to score Edwards and break up the shutout. That would be all for Auburn on this day though as they threatened in both the eighth and ninth innings only to come up empty.
If the fourth put LSU in great position then the sixth inning put it away as LSU added four more runs. Leading off, Hollander worked a walk to bring Jackson back up looking for more. Delivering once again, Jackson singled to put runners on the corners for Mitchell. Struggling to find the zone, Woodall walked Mitchell to load the bases for LSU's leading hitter Blake Dean. He came through in a big way as his double scored two. LSU would add two more runs on a sacrifice fly and a RBI single to finish out the scoring on this day. LSU went on to win 10-1 and avoid the sweep to Auburn.
Sanders' two hits led an Auburn attack that finished the day with nine hits. While Bristow struggled without much help from his defense, Auburn's relievers didn't have a stellar day either with the exception of Chris Dennis. Coming on in the sixth, Dennis allowed just two hits and no runs in two and two/thirds innings. It was the lone bright spot in an otherwise rough day for Auburn as the Tigers failed to get their first sweep in Baton Rouge in almost 20 years.
Auburn returns to action Tuesday at 6 p.m. when the Tigers take on Mercer at Plainsman Park. The next SEC series has Auburn traveling to South Carolina to face the East leading Gamecocks in a three-game series at Sarge-Frye Field.