Auburn, Ala.—Auburn had its chances on Sunday to pull off the first sweep of LSU in over 20 years, but a costly error and a ninth inning walk were the differences in the game as LSU held on for a 4-3 win to salvage the final game of the series. With the loss Auburn falls to 15-9 overall and 4-2 in SEC play. LSU improves to 18-6 overall and 3-3 in league action with the win.
“We didn’t have too many opportunities today,” Auburn Coach John Pawlowski said. “Ryan Tella came up with a big two-run home run, but I thought our kids were ready to play. I thought they were excited about the opportunity to compete again on Sunday. It just didn’t work out for us today.
“I didn’t think we played our best defensive game,” he added. “You’ve got to clean that up a little bit. When you get these close games it seems like one pitch or one play, a walk, a hit, a ground ball, that’s the difference. It certainly was today.”
Once again Auburn got a quality outing from true freshman Daniel Koger. Going seven innings he allowed three unearned runs on seven hits and kept LSU in check with the exception of one inning. Trey Cochran-Gill took the loss for the Tigers, giving up a run on two hits in one and one/third innings. Pawlowski said Koger again did a good job, but his defense cost him in the fourth when he gave up all three of his runs.
“It was one inning,” Pawlowski said. “He threw seven innings and gave up runs in one inning. I thought he did a good job of putting that inning behind him. It’s a good sign for a freshman to be able to do that. I told him the inning was over and his job was to keep it at three and go as long and as hard as he could. He did that and gave us a chance to win. That’s what you ask for from your starter.”
At the plate Tella, Bowen and Alvord all had two hits with the rest of the team combining for just two hits. LSU’s Raph Rhymes and Ty Ross had two hits each for the Tigers in the win.
Following three dominant innings to start Sunday’s game, Koger ran into some trouble in the fourth thanks to some shaky defense. Leadoff man JaCoby Jones reached on a Creede Simpson error and that opened the flood gates for the LSU offense. After Chris Sciambra bunted the runner to second, consecutive singles by Mason Katz and Raph Rhymes made the score 1-0 LSU with just one out. A ground ball by Austin Nola moved both runners up to set the table for catcher Ty Ross and he delivered a single to score two more and make it 3-0 just like that.
That’s how things would stay until Auburn finally got something going in the sixth against LSU starter Aaron Nola. Leading off the inning, Jay Gonzalez doubled to left field to break the ice for the Tigers. Following a Simpson ground ball, Tella stepped to the plate looking for something to drive and got just that from Nola as he launched a home run into the bullpen in right field. It was his first of the season and cut the LSU lead to 3-2 going to the seventh.
Auburn had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh as catcher Caleb Bowen ripped a triple off the center field wall with two outs. On the play Sciambra ran against the center field wall and had to be helped off the field. Katz moved from first base to center field and it proved to be a huge play in the game as Zach Alvord hit a blooper that was misplayed for a single. Bowen walked home to tie it at three and give Auburn new life.
Cochran-Gill came on to retire LSU in the eighth, but wouldn’t be as fortunate in the ninth. In his first appearance since Feb. 29, Cochran-Gill walked Jared Foster to start the inning and a bunt from Tyler Hanover moved the runner into scoring position for the top of the order. A thorn in Auburn’s side all weekend, Jones singled up the middle to score the go-ahead run and moved to second on the throw.
Cory Luckie came on to face Grant Dozar to try to keep the deficit at one run and got the left-hander on a fly ball to center field. Jones moved up to third on the play and with Katz at the plate Auburn went to the bullpen again for Dillon Ortman. A strikeout of the dangerous Katz brought the inning to a close with Auburn trailing 4-3 with one last at-bat.
With two outs against reliever Kurt McCune Auburn had a last-ditch effort to tie or even win the game as Dan Glevenyak walked. Choosing to go with power hitter Kody Ortman off the bench instead of Bowen, Auburn came up just short when his fly ball to center field was corralled by Katz.
Auburn returns to action Tuesday night when the Tigers travel to Birmingham to face the Samford Bulldogs. The first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.
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