Auburn Powers By USM, Clemson Next

Auburn hit four home runs as the Tigers defeated Southern Miss 17-8 to advance to face Clemson Sunday evening at Plainsman Park.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn blasted four home runs as part of a 17-hit attack on the way to a 17-8 win over Southern Miss Sunday to stay alive in the Auburn Regional at Plainsman Park.

Auburn (42-20) will now face Clemson (40-21) Sunday night hoping to advance to Monday for a one-game take all in a battle of Tigers.

A win by Auburn would force a final game at 5 p.m. on Monday while a Clemson win would be the end of the season for Auburn and advance Clemson into the Super Regionals.

"I thought we did what we needed to do to find a way to stay alive in this tournament," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "Obviously, it comes down to just finding a way. Bradley Hendrix did a great job for us. We gave up five runs early and the momentum was clearly in their dugout. He came in and did a great job.

"Offensively, we put some really good swings on it and opened up the offense a little bit today," he added. "It was a good win for us. Now we move on and we have another great challenge ahead of us."

Offensively, Hunter Morris was 3-5 with a grand slam and four RBI while Trent Mummey had a three-run homer and a pair of doubles for the Tigers.

Catcher Ryan Jenkins added three hits as well while Casey McElroy and Justin Fradejas added a pair of hits each.

While the offense was huge, the story of the game may have been Hendrix. With starter Cole Nelson lasting just two and two/thirds innings after allowing six earned runs, Hendrix got the Tigers into the ninth inning before Stephen Kohlscheen preserved the win. In five and one/third innings Hendrix allowed just two runs on seven hits as he improves to 4-2 on the season.

"They were a very aggressive fastball hitting team," Hendrix said. "I just tried to mix it up when I came in, trying to keep them on their toes. The wind was blowing out so I was trying to keep it on the ground and not give them anything they could handle and get out of there.

"I just tried to prevent big innings and get us back in the dugout," he added. "We were putting up runs every inning so I tried to keep the momentum in our dugout."

Auburn got on the board first against Southern Miss starter Geoffrey Thomas thanks to the long ball. As the visiting team the Tigers batted first and Brian Fletcher got things going with a long home run to left field for a 1-0 lead. It was his 21st home run of the season and gave Nelson a lead to work with as he took the mound.

That lead didn't last long though as the Golden Eagles responded with a huge first inning. Leading off Kameron Brunty singled to center field to open the floodgates for Southern Miss. Following a groundout, shortstop BA Vollmuth continued his huge sophomore season with a blast over the right field wall. It was his 20th home run and gave him 75 RBI on the season, but they were just getting started.

Following a walk to Adam Doleac, Joey Archer singled to center field and one out later another walk brought Travis Graves to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive, he lined it over Mummey's head in center field for a double. The hit cleared the bases and made it 5-1 Southern Miss.

The long ball would again be Auburn's best friend in the second inning as Jenkins singled up the middle with Justin Bryant following suit one out later to bring McElroy to the plate. With the wind blowing out to center field, the sophomore hit one off the scoreboard in left field for his eighth homer of the year. The blast brought Auburn back to within one at 5-4.

Following a scoreless half from Nelson on the mound Auburn came back for more in the third. With two outs and nobody on Morris hustled out an infield single and it proved to be huge as Jenkins collected his second hit of the day to bring Kevin Patterson to the plate.

Struggling in recent weeks, Patterson got a pitch over the plate and doubled into the gap in left-center. The hit scored Morris to tie the game, but Jenkins stumbled around third base and failed to cross the plate as he scrambled back to the bag. It wound up a lost run as Bryant struck out looking to end the threat.

Tied at 5-5 Nelson looked good to start the third, but a double by Archer and a two-out single by Graves gave the Golden Eagles back the lead 6-5. Auburn would again threaten in the top of the fourth as a one-out single by Fradejas and a walk to Mummey brought Dan Gamache to the plate. Facing reliever Jay Myrick, Gamache hit a ground ball to first to move the runners into scoring position for Fletcher. A walk brought Morris to the plate with the bases loaded facing the soft-tossing right-hander from Southern Miss.

Getting behind 0-1, Morris stayed back on a breaking ball and lined it over the right field wall for a grand slam, his second grand slam of the season. It was his school record 23rd home run of the season and put Auburn up 9-6 with Hendrix on to try to hold the lead for the Tigers.

"I thought it was one of the big hits we had been hoping for," Pawlowski said. "He was fortunate that he got a ball he could handle with the bases loaded. It was a good swing. He's done that time and time again. It was a big momentum swing in that particular at-bat."

Hunter Morris (right) is congratulated after his grand slam home run.

Following a scoreless bottom of the fourth, Auburn got something going again as Myrick walked the bases loaded with nobody out. That was enough for USM as reliever Paxton King came on to face Fradejas. His single scored a pair of runners to bring Mummey to the plate. Getting a pitch out over the plate, Mummey lifted a fly ball to right that just cleared the wall for his 16th homer of the year. That made it 14-6 Auburn. Gamache later scored on an error to give the Tigers a nine-run lead.

Another double by Mummey in the eighth added two more runs for the Tigers for a 17-6 lead. A Vollmuth RBI single in the bottom of the eighth brought the Golden Eagles back to within a touchdown and field goal. A single run in the ninth was all they could muster as Auburn closed out the 17-8 win to advance.

The Tigers will start freshman Slade Smith on Sunday night while Clemson will send left-hander Will Lamb to the mound looking to win the regional. The designated hitter the first two days, Lamb is 4-4 this season with a 4.96 ERA. Smith is 4-0 on the season with a 4.37 ERA. He pitched two and one/third innings in Friday night's win over Jacksonville State.

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