Troy, Ala.--Troy's Beau Brooks hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 16th inning to help the Trojans defeat the Auburn Tigers 5-4 in a marathon game Wednesday night in Troy. Auburn had a chance to win the game in the 10th inning after scoring a single run but the second of Edgar Ramirez's home runs tied the game which Troy would eventually win in the 16th. With the loss Auburn falls to 27-17 on the year while Troy improves to 26-16.
It wasn't a good night for the Tigers offensively as they left 15 runners on base and struck out a total of 23 times against Troy pitching. Still Auburn had plenty of chances to take the lead in extra innings but couldn't come up with the clutch hit. That was the only blemish on a night when both teams played exceptional baseball says Auburn's Tommy Slater.
"Pitching-wise, I thought Austin Hubbard was outstanding," Slater says. "I thought Luke Greinke was outstanding. I thought everybody threw the ball very well tonight. I'm very pleased with that. The effort that our kids gave out there for 16 innings, they were never tight and never nervous. They were just out there having fun and playing baseball. That's what they did for 16 innings. We left 15 on base tonight and we put ourselves in position to score some runs a few times. We didn't get it done. I don't think you can fault the effort by the kids at all. Anyone that watched this game tonight saw our kids getting after it."
With the game tied at four and lumbering deep into the night after both teams had chances to win, Auburn had its last chance to take the lead in the top of the 15th inning as the powerful Mike Bianucci caught Troy off guard and reached on a bunt single to start the frame. Moving to second on a sacrifice bunt by Joseph Sanders, Bianucci looked to score on a sharp single to right field by Robert Brooks. Playing shallow, Troy's right fielder came up with the ball cleanly and threw a strike to the plate to easily nail Bianucci for the second out of the inning. Going in high, Bianucci had a collision at the plate and was thrown out of the game. With Brooks at second, Ross Smith was walked to bring Justin Bristow to the plate. In as a defensive replacement with the Tigers running out of position players, Bristow flew out to right field to end the Auburn threat with the game tied at four.
Troy would threaten in the bottom of the inning as a leadoff single and a two-out walk to Josh Dew put the winning run on second base against Greinke. In the game since the 11th inning and over 60 pitches into the outing, Greinke could only look on as Kevin Weidlich drove a ball deep into center field. Playing in, Auburn's Bruce Edwards raced back to make a diving catch to end the inning and keep the Tigers in the game. It was the third big catch of the game for Edwards, who finished 2-8 at the plate.
Auburn again had a chance to take the lead in the 16th as Phillip Stringer worked a walk to start the inning and moved to second on a one-out single by Greinke to bring Josh Donaldson to the plate. Having easily the worst night of his career with no hits in seven at-bats already, the junior continued his struggle as he struck out for the fourth time. That left things up to little-used Ryan Stanley but he couldn't get it done as his fly ball was caught in center field to end the Auburn threat and send it to the bottom of the 16th.
The missed opportunities would come back to haunt the Tigers as Bristow moved to the mound to try to keep the game going after a fantastic outing by Greinke on the mound. Getting the first two hitters on strikes, it looked like it would be Bristow's night but one pitch was all it took for things to come crashing down as his 2-1 fastball to Brooks was launched to right field for a home run. Brooks' third homer of the year gave Troy the 5-4 victory. The loss drops Bristow's record to 1-6 on the season.
Normally mid-week games late in the season can turn out to be scoring battles but Wednesday night in Troy it was a classic pitchers duel between the Tigers and Trojans. Auburn struck first in the game as Bianucci blasted a solo home run in the top of the second to put the Tigers on top. It was Bianucci's 13th home run of the season and fifth in his last eight games. With the lead, Hubbard got to work on the mound in his best outing of the season.
The one run lead held up for Hubbard and the Tigers until the bottom of the fifth. With Troy shutting down Auburn's offense, the Trojans used the long ball to take their first lead of the game. With one out in the fifth Troy got a single to bring Edgar Ramirez to the plate. A power threat, Ramirez got a pitch to hit and drove it deep over the wall for a two-run homer. It was his seventh of the season and put Troy on top 2-1 heading to the sixth. Hubbard allowed just two runs on five hits as he turned things over to the Auburn bullpen.
Looking to take the lead back, Auburn sent the heart of the order to the plate with Greinke up first. Hitless on the night to this point, Greinke singled to left field to extend his hitting streak to 19 games and would finish with four hits in seven at-bats. Getting a pitch to run on, Greinke quickly stole second but Donaldson couldn't make the Trojans pay as he struck out to bring Bianucci to the plate. Not wanting to face the powerful Bianucci, Troy put him on to pitch to Sanders. Just like he did a week ago against Samford, Sanders made the Trojans pay for the intentional pass as he singled to center field. Greinke scored on the play and the ball got by the catcher to move Bianucci to third and Sanders to second with still just one out and Brooks coming to bat. The freshman second baseman struck out but the ball bounced away from the Troy catcher. With the throw to first, Bianucci broke from third and scored in front of the throw home. The run gave Auburn a 3-2 advantage with Johnny Thompson coming on in relief.
Following a scoreless sixth, Troy evened things in the seventh off Bryan Woodall. Once again it was Ramirez that did the damage. With a runner on second following a single and an error by Woodall, Ramirez drilled a double off the wall in left field. The hit scored the third Trojan run of the game to tie the game heading to the eighth.
From there it would be a battle of relievers as Troy's Ryan Ellison and Chris Dennis for Auburn dueled for two innings to keep the game tied at three. Back on the mound in the 10th, Ellison finally showed a chink in the armor as the Tigers scored a single run to take the lead. With one out, a pinch hit single by Andy Bennett got Auburn going against Ellison. In to run, Stringer advanced to second on a wild pitch with Edwards at the plate and moved to third on an infield single. It was then time for Greinke to work some magic as he pushed a perfect bunt towards first base for a single. Stringer scored on the play to give Auburn the lead back at 4-3.
It would last just momentarily though as once again Ramirez proved to be the thorn in the side of the Tigers. Leading off the bottom of the 10th, Ramirez quickly fell behind reliever Brett Butts 0-2 before getting a hanging breaking ball and driving it deep over the wall for his second home run of the night. Now again tied, the two teams would battle into the night before the Trojans finally came away with the victory in the bottom of the 16th inning.
Auburn returns to action Friday night when the Tigers take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first game of a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times for the weekend are 6 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.