Auburn Squeezes Past LSU For Series Win

Auburn defeated defending national champion LSU in dramatic fashion to earn the first series win over the Bengal Tigers at Plainsman Park since 1998.

Auburn, Ala.--Tied at five in the bottom of the ninth inning, Justin Fradejas' safety squeeze scored Casey McElroy from third base to give Auburn a 6-5 win over the third-ranked LSU Tigers Sunday at Plainsman Park.

Trailing 3-0 in the first inning, Auburn battled back and eventually took a 5-4 lead into the ninth before a solo homer by LSU tied the game and set up the dramatic finish.

Auburn improves to 22-11 overall and 7-5 in SEC play with the win while LSU drops to 26-6 overall, 8-4 in league action. The two wins on Saturday and Sunday are just the second two-game losing streak for LSU in the last 135 games. The only other came against Tennessee last April.

"The excitement in the dugout when Justin put down that safety squeeze, the guys flew out of the dugout," Auburn Coach John Pawlowski said. "It's a great win for our kids and our program, especially being down 3-0 in the first inning before we even come to bat. The kids stayed with it and kept their game plan and we kept finding a way to scratch for a run here or there.

Grant Dayton did a great job. He kept his composure and gave us a chance. I was excited for our fans and for our program. It was certainly a good win for us."

Leading 5-4 with closer Austin Hubbard on the mound in the ninth inning, Auburn was looking to finish things off in style. Virtually unhittable in his three innings of work to that point, Hubbard faced Johnny Dishon to open the inning. Hitting .167 coming into the game, he was already 0-1 on the day and quickly fell behind 1-2 to Hubbard. It didn't matter though as Hubbard made his only mistake of the game, hanging a slider over the middle of the plate. Dishon didn't miss it either as he launched it deep to left field for his third homer of the year to tie the game at five.

Recovering to finish off the inning, Hubbard gave his offense a chance to win it in the ninth and that's exactly what Auburn did.

Sophomore shortstop Casey McElroy led off the ninth facing reliever Austin Ross and fought off a pitch to left field that just dropped in fair territory. Slicing away from Dishon in left field, the ball rolled far enough down the line to allow McElroy to get to second base with a leadoff double.

That brought Kevin Patterson to the plate. Already with a pair of hits on the day, including a solo home run to give Auburn a 5-4 lead in the sixth, Patterson came through again with a seeing-eye single to left field that put runners on the corners with nobody out for Fradejas.

"I said my prayers last night so thank God that one got through," Patterson said.

Having seen enough, LSU went to the bullpen and ace closer Matty Ott to try to hold off Auburn in the ninth. Trying to keep Auburn's options to a minimum, LSU brought center fielder Leon Landry in behind Ott on the infield to try to cut down the chances of a ground ball winning the game. With everything in mind, Pawlowski said it made it a pretty easy decision to go with the squeeze.

"They brought in their center fielder so they had five infielders," Pawlowski said. "Ott is an outstanding pitcher. I think Justin handles the bat. That's maybe our best option. If he didn't do it on the first time we were maybe going to try something else. He put down a great safety squeeze and Casey read it right. Fortunately for us the throw was a little high and Casey was able to get in there."

Pushing the bunt towards first base, Fradejas did his job and now it was up McElroy and LSU's Blake Dean. McElroy broke towards home with Dean fielding the ball on the move towards home plate. Tossing the baseball toward catcher Micah Dean, the throw was just high enough to allow McElroy to score the game winner for Auburn.

"We had talked about it while they were changing pitchers," McElroy said. "We had talked about it and knew what was going to happen. I took two steps and looked at the first baseman. I knew it was going to be really close. It looked like the throw might have been up. I got lucky on the slide. It was pretty nerve-wracking."

Justin Fradejas is mobbed after his squeeze bunt scored McElroy with the game winner.

On the mound starter Grant Dayton allowed four runs on seven hits in two and two/thirds innings, but the star of the game for the Tigers was Hubbard. Pitching the final five innings, he allowed just a run on a hit to get his third win of the year. He said that beating LSU is huge for this team heading into the heart of the SEC schedule.

"We had a packed house on a Sunday," Hubbard said. "That was huge. It was a lot of fun. I think we deserved that one. That's a heck of a ball club over there. That was a great baseball game. It feels really good to come out on the good side of one."

Sunday's game started like Friday's for the Auburn Tigers, which wasn't something that Pawlowski wanted to see. Dominant his last three outings, Dayton gave up back-to-back singles to Mikie Mahtook and Dean to open the game and a walk to Micah Gibbs loaded the bases with still nobody out. A pair of singles from Austin Nola and Matt Gaudet followed to score a pair of runs before Auburn finally got its first out on a Leon Landry groundout that scored the third run of the inning. Dayton would recover though to keep the deficit at just three for Auburn.

The home-standing Tigers would get one back in the second after a leadoff walk to Dan Gamache proved costly for LSU starter Joey Bourgeois. Responding to get the next two Auburn hitters, he gave up an infield single by Patterson to bring Fradejas to the plate. In right field on Sunday, Fradejas singled up the middle to score Gamache to make it 3-1 LSU.

With Dayton settling in on the mound, Auburn got another run back in the third on a solo homer by first baseman Hunter Morris deep to right field. It was his ninth of the year and brought Auburn back to within one run. The lead would be completely erased in the fourth inning as catcher Tony Caldwell led off the frame with a solo homer to deep center field. A single by McElroy and a walk to Patterson kept things going before a Fradejas bunt moved both into scoring position.

Following a Hargett strikeout, Trent Mummey came to the plate looking to keep his hot streak going. With eight RBI in his first four games, the junior was back in center field on Sunday. Getting behind in the count, he fought off a breaking ball and pulled it into the hole between first and second. LSU's Tyler Hanover came up with the ball on a diving stop, but couldn't make the play at first. Never slowing down rounding third base, Patterson was thrown out at the plate but not before McElroy scored to put Auburn in front 4-3.

LSU answered back in the fifth as a one-out single from Mahtook and a two-out walk brought shortstop Austin Nola to the plate to face Dayton. Getting ahead in the count, Dayton threw good pitch after good pitch that Nola fouled off before getting one he liked. Turning on a fastball, he lined it into left field to score Mahtook and tie the game at four.

The visiting Tigers threatened to break things open in the sixth off reliever Bradley Hendrix as he hit the first man he faced before walking the second LSU hitter. After getting the Tigers out of the fifth, Hendrix failed to get an out in the sixth before turning things over to Hubbard. Facing a tall order, Hubbard got Dishon on a foul out trying to bunt with two strikes. He then struck out Mahtook to bring Dean to the plate. Getting the powerful first baseman on a groundout to Morris, Hubbard gave Auburn some life heading to the plate in the bottom of the inning.

One swing of the bat was all it would take for Auburn to pull back in front. With two outs and nobody on Patterson came to the plate hoping to get a pitch to hit against LSU reliever Austin Ross. A starter early in the year, the powerful right-hander left one out over the plate to Patterson and the junior deposited it off the batter's eye in center field for his eighth home run of the season. The blast put Auburn back in front 5-4 with Hubbard in it to win it. He would get the job done, but not before some serious drama to close things out.

Auburn will have just one mid-week game this week as the Tigers take on New Orleans at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Plainsman Park. Auburn travels to Vanderbilt next weekend to face the Commodores in a three-game series.

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