AU Down But Not Out After 11-3 Loss To LSU

Blake Austin

Auburn fell 11-3 to LSU on Friday night but still has a shot to make the SEC Tournament in Hoover.

Auburn, Ala.--LSU used a pair of five-run innings and the pitching of Aaron Nola to dominate Auburn from start to finish on the way to an 11-3 victory to take the series over Sunny Golloway's club Friday night at Plainsman Park. Auburn has now dropped seven consecutive SEC games at home and falls to 28-27 on the season and 10-20 in conference play with the loss.

One of the top pitchers in the country, Nola allowed just one Auburn run on five hits in seven innings and struck out nine to pick up his ninth win of the season. He was helped out by an LSU offense that pounded Auburn pitching for all 11 runs in the first five innings before coasting home to victory.

The only bright side for Auburn on an otherwise dismal evening is that both Tennessee and Georgia lost as well with the Vols falling 4-2 to Florida in Knoxville and the Bulldogs smashed 10-0 at home by Kentucky. That means Auburn is still alive for the SEC Tournament in Hoover next week. Needing a win and either Tennessee or Georgia to lose on Saturday to earn the postseason berth, Golloway said it means his team has one more shot to make it happen.

"Win the game tomorrow and that means both those teams have to win," Golloway said. "That's a 50-50 proposition. Clearly, going into this weekend, if you told us we had to win one game to give us a 50-50 proposition we would have taken it. There's not a whole lot to talk about. They know what it is."

Needing a win to keep its dim hopes alive Auburn is expected to turn to senior Dillon Ortman once again as the starter. Even though he threw 93 pitches last Saturday at Kentucky in an 8-1 victory and 46 more pitches on Thursday in a loss to LSU, Ortman (9-4, 2.53 ERA) is one of several options for Golloway heading into a must-win situation on the final day of the season.

With Terrance Dedrick, Trey Cochran-Gill, Ryan Tella and Reid Carter all at his disposal heading into Saturday, Golloway said Ortman may again be the man for Auburn with its life on the line.

"Dillon Ortman came to me and he wants the ball and wants to start," Golloway said. "I want to be cautiously optimistic about that because we're not going to do anything to jeopardize his opportunity to pitch at the next level. We definitely didn't plan to start him two of the three games but the way it has worked out and the way his arm feels today, we're to sleep on it. Right now Dillon wants the ball but I want to make a really smart decision on his behalf."

With Nola on the mound LSU didn't need much offense but that didn't stop the eighth-ranked team in the country from jumping on Auburn starter Michael O'Neal early and often. Giving up a two-out double in the first inning, O'Neal worked out of trouble but that was only a sign of things to come on this night. In the second Connor Hale doubled with one out and scored on a two-out double from Christian Ibarra to put LSU on the board.

Aaron Nola showed why he's one of the best in the country

Pitching a scoreless third, O'Neal ran out of gas in the fourth and LSU took complete advantage of the opportunity. Leading things off, Sean McMullen turned on a pitch and launched it deep over the wall in right field for his fifth home run of the season. Now up a pair of runs the visitors took complete command.

Walking Danny Zardon, O'Neal allowed back-to-back singles to Hale and Tyler Moore to load the bases and bring Christian Ibarra to the plate. Trying to pitch inside, O'Neal hit the third baseman to force home Zardon to make it 3-0 LSU. That would bring Wingenter out of the bullpen for Auburn and he quickly got a groundout from Stevenson to second to retire Ibarra at second. However Hale would score from third on the play to give LSU a four-run lead.

Following a wild pitch to move Stevenson to second, Auburn brought the infield in with Mark Laird at the plate. Hitting a hard ground ball that forced Auburn second baseman Dan Glevenyak to his left, the senior wheeled and threw to wide to the plate. The ball got by catcher Blake Logan allowing both runners to score and push LSU's lead to 6-0.

"Michael mixed really well for three innings," Golloway said. "I thought he mixed really well and did a good job of keeping them off-balance. When the home run left the yard it changed him a little bit. That's kind of been what we've been concerned with all year. We tried to get him out of there and salvage the thing when we were down three and it blew up to five and kind of ran away from there in back-to-back innings."

They would put the finishing touches on this one in the next inning with five more runs with Hale and Moore doing the big damage with back-to-back doubles to score three.

That's all Nola would need as he pitched seven innings before giving way to Hunter Devall out of the bullpen. Auburn did manage to score a run off the All-American before he went to the showers. Leading off the seventh, Damon Haecker singled for the second time in the game and one out later moved to second on a Blake Austin single. Ryan Tella then walked to load the bases and bring Jordan Ebert to the plate.

Nola got ahead in the count against the sophomore, forcing him to protect the plate. Hitting a slow roller to third that would have been a base hit against most teams, Ebert's ground ball was gobbled up by Ibarra and he finished it off with the throw to first for the out. Haecker scored on the play to give Auburn it's first run of the weekend in the process.

That run broke a streak of scoring just one run in the last 45 innings at home in SEC play for Auburn, dating back to Sunday's game against South Carolina on April 22.

Facing reliever Hunter Devall in the eighth inning Auburn added two more runs as Glevenyak scored on a Tomscha sacrifice fly before Austin drove home Grier from third. Grier reached on a double earlier in the inning. With a chance to do more damage Tella struck out to end the inning with a pair of runners on base.

Now down 11-3 in the ninth Auburn went quietly to drop the series.

Auburn got two hits each from Haecker, Austin and Ebert as part of a nine-hit night. On the mound O'Neal allowed six runs on six hits in just three innings. Wingenter allowed five runs on three hits in one and two/thirds innings while Jacob Milliman allowed just three hits and no runs in the final four and one/third innings to save the bullpen for the Tigers.

Auburn will have senior day on Saturday to honor a large group of players that will take the field at Plainsman Park for the final time. That will take place at 12:40 with the first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. The game can be seen on SportSouth.

Click HERE for the stats from Tuesday night's game.

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