On a run of 10 straight games without a loss, No. 11 Auburn (12-3-1) entered another weekend series with sights set on perfecting the lineup and fundamentals ahead of SEC play. The weekend started on the right track, with a 7-1 win over Southeastern Lousiana (11-5) on Friday, but the Lions battled back and took home both games of Saturday's doubleheader, securing a series win.
Friday's victory for the Tigers was a clinic across the board, with five hitless innings from a bullpen that had bounced back from giving up 11 runs to Lipscomb, and the bats coming alive once again with the eighth double-digit hits game in the last 11 contests.
“It really doesn’t matter how you play, it’s how you’re handling home plate,” head coach Butch Thompson said. “Can you protect the plate and can you win more pitches than the other team? At least we did for game one tonight.”
At the plate, Auburn was led by Cole Foster, who finished the game with four hits, four RBIs and his second home run of this season. This was Foster's second-straight four-hit game.
What was already a difficult slate, nine games in 12 days, became even stranger for the Tigers with a forecast of inclement weather on Sunday turning a three-game series into a Saturday doubleheader finale.
Auburn jumped out to a 3-0 lead in game one of the doubleheader, holding Southeastern Louisiana scoreless through the first five innings. Then the Lions scored eight unanswered runs to take the victory and tie the series.
It was the freshman duo of Chris Stanfield and Zach Crotchfelt that got things started in the first matchup on Saturday, with Stanfield blasting the first home run of his career in the third inning, a two-run shot. It was the fifth extra-base hit for Stanfield in the first 27 at-bats of his career. On the defensive side, Crotchfelt kept the Lions in check, giving up three hits and three walks while earning five strikeouts on the mound.
When Crotchfelt left after the fifth, Southeastern Louisiana cut into the lead with two runs in the sixth. Chase Isbell entered in relief but could not stop the run from the Lions, who scored six more times before the game was over.
The Lions continued their run in the series finale, taking a 3-0 lead through the first two innings, eventually taking an 8-2 lead going into the bottom of the eighth.
Auburn could not find any scoring in the eighth, but Cameron Keshcok was able to step in and shut down the Lions in the top of the ninth, giving Auburn one final chance to mount a comeback.
The bases were loaded, two outs on the board, and two walks cut into the deficit, setting the stage for freshman Ike Irish to work his magic again. Irish leads the team in batting average, at-bats, hits and doubles, and the freshman delivered a crucial bases-clearing double to bring the Tigers within one run of the Lions.
Auburn even got the bases loaded again, but a fly-out shut the door on a comeback and gave the Lions the win.
“We’re trying to teach a group of players that it’s more about the tenets of the game,” Thompson said. “It’s not really who you play, meaning the opponent. It’s not who you play, meaning which of our players are on the field. It’s about how you play, and it’s about ownership of home plate.”
Auburn will have to test that again on Tuesday when Georgia Tech comes to town. The Yellow Jackets (13-3, 2-1 ACC) and the Tigers will faceoff at 6 p.m. CT at Plainsman Park, with the game scheduled to be broadcast on SEC Network+.
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