Raph Rhymes' three-run homer in the first inning set the tone as No. 7 LSU powered past Auburn 9-4 in the Bayou Bengal's SEC home opener.
Rhymes, Mark Laird and Alex Bregman all delivered multi-hit games while Aaron Nola struck out nine to earn his third win of the season. The victory continued LSU's promising start to SEC play.
LSU (20-2, 3-1 SEC) jumped on top early with consecutive singles by Laird and Bregman. That set the table for Rhymes who drilled a shot to left field — his first of the season — putting LSU ahead by three in the first inning.
"I was just trying to be aggressive and put the runners in motion in my first at bat," Rhymes said. "I wanted to try to put us in the lead early. I put a good swing on the ball and it just happened to get out of here."
Auburn (15-7, 0-4 SEC) didn't go down quietly though, as it cut the deficit to just one run by the third inning. Nola was dominant at times, but surrendered nine hits in 6 2/3 innings, five of those coming with two outs.
"The performance overall, was OK I guess," Nola said. "I kept my team in the game. We had a lot of hits and we pulled the win out. But other than that, I made a couple bad pitches and gave up nine hits. I need to get better for next weekend."
After a two-out double by 3B Damek Tomscha — who went 3-for-3 on Friday with a walk — C Blake Austin followed that up with a RBI-single that put Auburn on the board in the second inning. Auburn struck again in the third after Nola issued a leadoff walk to 2B Jordan Ebert.
Ebert stole second then came around to score on a double to right-center by 1B Garrett Cooper.
"If anybody thought the game was over when it was 3-0, it certainly wasn't me" said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "Auburn has SEC-caliber athletes. I knew they wouldn't quit."
LSU quickly answered back as Mason Katz continued his power streak at the plate, blasting his 10th home run of the season, scoring a pair to boost LSU's lead back to 5-3 after three innings.
"It's a weird hot streak, because I'm not getting on base a tremendous amount," Katz said. "Every time I put a ball in play, I feel like it's a home run…I'm seeing the ball really well. The guys in front of me are getting on base, and I'm getting a lot of good pitches to hit."
LSU added two more in the fifth thanks to a two-run single by Christian Ibarra after the Tigers loaded the bases with no outs.
That still wasn't enough as Auburn mounted a threat in the eighth inning, bringing the potential game-tying run to the plate.
Brent Bonvillain, who recorded the final out of the seventh inning, walked the leadoff man to open the eighth. He gave way to Nick Rumbelow, who allowed three of the four batters he faced to reach base. His walk to Austin — his second of the inning — brought in a run that cut LSU's lead to 7-3.
Joey Bourgeois entered with one out and the bases loaded and got the next two batters out to prevent any further damage.
"I obviously wasn't very pleased with the performance of our bullpen with the first couple of guys," Mainieri said. "But Joey Bourgeois came in and really saved the game for us."
LSU added some cushion in the eighth, bringing in two more runs to make things a bit more comfortable in the final inning. Kevin Berry finished it out for LSU after giving up a run in the ninth. He was then able to get the final three outs and solidify LSU's victory in the series opener.
"We'll take the victory," Mainieri said. "I wish we would have done a little bit more to put them away, but you can't be totally displeased. We did some good things tonight, and we were able to secure the victory."
No. 7 LSU powers past Auburn, 9-4
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