Leading 6-2 in the eighth inning, Auburn gave up four runs in the final two innings and two more in the 10th, but found a way to pull out the win and even the series with Southeast Missouri State.
"It's a good win for us," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "There was a lot of adversity during the course of the game. Grant Dayton threw the ball extremely well as did Zach Blatt. We made some mistakes and somehow the kids stayed on it and we found a way to win. That's a good sign.
"It was a tough game," the coach added. "They played extremely well. Wes Gilmer and Crede Simpson did a good job and came up with some big hits. Crede, what a big hit for him and for the Tigers."
With the game tied heading to extra innings Auburn looked like it had given one away in the top of the 10th thanks in large part to sloppy defense and spotty pitching. With reliever Bradley Hendrix in for the Tigers SEMO got going with a one-out single up the middle by Brennan Malham and a stolen base that moved him into scoring position. Following a walk Hendrix got a ground ball up the middle that shortstop Justin Bryant flipped to Justin Hargett covering second base, but the junior dropped the ball to load the bases with still one out.
It looked like Auburn would escape as Jim Klocke's sharp grounder to Hargett was taken to the bag for an out. The junior wheeled and threw low to first base where Hunter Morris was unable to block the ball. That allowed Malham to score and give SEMO the lead. Getting the rebound off the wall, Morris threw wildly to the plate allowing the second run of the inning to score and put Auburn in a big hole heading to the bottom of the 10th.
Third baseman Dan Gamache got things started on a good note as he singled up the middle off reliever Trent Wise. Shutting the Tigers down in his two innings of work to that point, Wise started to show some signs of weakening and Auburn took advantage. Following a Tony Caldwell flyout, Bryant was hit by a pitch to put the tying run on base for Ryan Jenkins. His ground ball to second moved both runners into scoring position, setting the stage for Gilmer's heroics.
A junior with limited success in his career to this point, Gilmer earned the start as Auburn's designated hitter on Saturday and had already come through with two hits on the day. Getting something to take the other way, the switch hitter lofted a single into left field from the left-hand side to score both runners and tie the game.
"I was in the locker room early this morning and him (Gilmer) and Hunter were sitting in the locker room," Pawlowski said. "They were the only two in the locker room. Wes told me he couldn't wait until 3 o'clock got here. He was so excited about playing. He comes up with a great day and steps up."
Coming up with the big hit, Gilmer also made a heads up play as he advanced to second on a throw to the plate. That proved to be a huge play as Hargett was hit by a pitch as well to bring Simpson to the plate with a chance to be the hero. Turning on a 1-0 pitch, the Auburn native drilled a single to left field to score pinch runner Justin Fradejas and give the Tigers the victory.
"I had struggled at the plate some so I was looking for a pitch I could drive," Simpson said. "It was early in the count and luckily he threw me one up there and I hit it. It's just a great win. That first one is always good to get off your back. Hopefully we can take something from it and keep on winning."
Hunter Morris has six hits in two games for the Tigers.
For the game Morris and Gilmer both had two hits for the Tigers while Gamache and Caldwell added two hits each. On the mound Dayton had a solid start, allowing two runs on five hits in four and two/thirds innings. Blatt came on and allowed just one run on three hits in two and a third.
Early on it was frustration for the Tigers as a Bryant RBI single in the third inning kept the first five innings from behind a total breakdown offensively. Despite six hits and eight walk in that span, Auburn managed just the one run and left 13 runners on base during that time.
SEMO took advantage of that to score two in the fifth and take the lead, but Auburn would answer back in the sixth with a Caldwell ground-rule double to score Morris and Gamache. Now ahead 3-2 Auburn would add three more in the seventh with RBI from Morris and Fletcher.
Staked to a 6-2 lead Auburn went back out in the eighth with Blatt in control on the mound. A walk quickly sent him to the showers in favor of sophomore Corey Luckie. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, Luckie walked the only hitter he faced to put runners on first and second with nobody out.
That was enough for Pawlowski as he called for Hubbard to come in and save the game, but SEMO would have other ideas as back-to-back singles pushed across two runs and cut the Tigers' lead in half at 6-4. With runners again on first and second Southeast Missouri played the odds and attempted to bunt the runners over, but Hubbard fielded the Kenton Parmley bunt and threw to third for the first out of the inning. A strikeout followed, but Ryan Jenkins' throw to third to catch the attempted base stealer bounced into left field. SEMO scored its third run on the error to make it 6-5 Auburn. Hubbard got a ground ball to Hargett at second to end the inning, but the damage was done.
In the top of the ninth Hubbard gave up a single to open the inning and then Klocke hit a sharp liner off of Morris at first base to put two runners on. Following a balk that put both runners in scoring position, Louie Haseltine's liner went off of the glove of Gamache at third base to load the bases with nobody out. A sacrifice fly then scored the tying run, but Hubbard would come back to strike out the final two hitters, but not before SEMO tied things up setting the stage for the dramatic 10th inning.
Auburn and SEMO will play the final game of the series Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. with junior college transfer Cole Nelson on the mound for the Tigers.