Failing to get an out before freshman Slade Smith came on in relief in the first inning, Nelson allowed six earned runs on seven hits to put Auburn (20-11, 5-5) in a deep hole the Tigers could never climb out of. By the time the dust had settled LSU (26-4, 8-2) would walk away with a 14-10 win despite seven runs in the final two innings by Auburn including a Trent Mummey grand slam. While his team never quit fighting, coach John Pawlowski said the first inning was just a killer for his team.
"They got on a roll and hit some balls hard," Pawlowski said. "They just jumped us so early. The first guy battled and battled and we walked the leadoff guy. It was obvious that it wasn't going to be one of his nights. We made the decision to take him out and maybe he'll be able to help us either tomorrow or Sunday."
One of the positives was the play of Auburn's offense. Never giving in, the Tigers responded with 12 hits as Brian Fletcher and Justin Fradejas both had two for Auburn. Much of the damage came last as five runs crossed the board in the eighth inning with two more in the ninth, something that showed Pawlowski his team will keep fighting.
"Being down as much as we were I was encouraged by the way they battled back," Pawlowski said. "I know the game was probably out of hand, but nobody in that dugout quit. That's what we have to have. We have to have some guys willing to keep battling all nine innings."
It took just one inning for this game to come to anything but a swift ending, but it was an inevitable conclusion as LSU scored six to take the Tigers out of things early. Leading off, Mikie Mahtook walked and stole second before a Tyler Hanover single put runners on first and third with nobody out for Blake Dean. One of LSU's most dangerous hitters, Dean pounded a single off the wall in right field to score the first run of the game and again put runners on the corners.
A Micah Gibbs single then made it 2-0 and set the Tigers up for the play that broke the back of the team on this night. Getting ahead of DH Matt Gaudet 0-2, Nelson got him to pop up to right field only Creede Simpson nor Justin Hargett could find the ball in the air. It instead fell to the turf loading the bases with still nobody out. Two more singles would make it 6-0 before Slade Smith came on to finally get the Tigers out of the inning already down a six-spot.
Auburn wouldn't go away without a fight as Hargett led off with a ringing double off the monster in left field. A walk to Mummey followed to bring Brian Fletcher to the plate looking to get the home team back in the game. Getting a pitch away, Fletcher ripped it off Dean's glove for a double to right field. Running all the way, Mummey was waived around third by coach Link Jarrett but was gunned down at the plate with Hargett scoring in front of him. Attempting to go to third, Fletcher drew a wild throw from Gibbs and scored to cut the LSU lead down to 6-2.
Smith pitched a scoreless second before LSU came back with a single run in the third. They would add three more in the fourth to pull in front 10-2 before Auburn would threaten in the fifth. Leading off, center fielder Justin Fradejas reached on a bunt single and moved to second on a wild pitch. Hargett was then hit by a pitch to put a pair of runners on base with nobody out. A Mummey strikeout followed by a walk to Fletcher loaded the bases with the heart of the Auburn order coming to the plate.
If there was a chance for Auburn to get back in the game this was the time. Instead a Hunter Morris fielder's choice on a great play by Dean at first scored Fradejas, but that was it as Tony Caldwell's groundout brought the inning to a close with Auburn scoring just one. LSU would get that right back in the sixth though to push the lead back to eight. For the game Smith allowed four earned runs in seven innings.
Three more runs in the top of the eighth off reliever Stephen Kohlscheen would make it 14-3 LSU before Auburn began to chip into the lead. In the eighth inning a two-out walk to Kevin Patterson started a rally as back to back singles from Casey McElroy and Fradejas loaded the bases. A walk to Hargett forced across a run before Mummey came to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive, he launched it over the right field wall for a grand slam to make it 14-8. Auburn would tack on two runs in the ninth and have the tying run on deck, but a Mummey pop up brought the comeback to a close.
Auburn will be looking to even the series on Saturday as lefty Chris Matulis will take the mound for LSU while the home team will send sophomore Jon Luke Jacobs out in search of the win. The first pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. and can be seen on SportSouth as well as espn3.com.