Nashville, Tenn.--It took an extra day to complete, but Auburn scored four unanswered runs on Friday and into Saturday to take a 6-3 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores in game one of the series and earn a split in the series. In a game resumed on Saturday after being delayed by rain on Friday night, Auburn scored three in the seventh and one in the eighth to erase a one run deficit and get the win and improve to 23-17, 7-10 in SEC play. With the loss Vanderbilt falls to 27-11, 9-7 in league play.
Auburn’s closer, Bryan Woodall came on to pitch when the game resumed in the seventh and was outstanding in the victory. The Tigers got an insurance run on a Hunter Morris home run in the eighth to extend the lead to 6-3 and Woodall made it stand up for the victory. Coach Tommy Slater said there was never any doubt in his mind Woodall was going to get the call for the Tigers.
“In Woody we trust,” Slater said. “What a great job he did of coming in and throwing those last three innings for us. Hunter Morris just continues to play beyond his years as a true freshman out there. That was a big blow for us to get an extra run on the board. It takes a lot of pressure off Woody. Great job by Morris with the bomb and Woody just did an outstanding job.”
Trailing 3-2 heading to the top of the seventh and with just one base runner and no hits off Minor since the second inning, Auburn was looking for a spark at the plate and it came in the form of redshirt freshman third baseman David Cunningham. Playing in the place of Joseph Sanders, Cunningham ripped a ground rule double with one out that was just the ignition the Auburn offense needed. Kevin Patterson then reached on a walk to bring Ryan Jenkins to the plate. A deep fly ball to right field allowed Cunningham to tag and advance to third with Matt Hall coming to the plate.
Pulling off a the double steal, Auburn sent Patterson from first hoping to draw a throw from catcher Shea Robin behind the plate. Vanderbilt decided against that, giving Hall a chance to drive home two. With the rain coming down in buckets, Hall singled up the middle to score both runners and put Auburn up 4-3. Moving to second on the throw to the plate, Hall scored on a Trent Mummey single to left to give the Tigers a two-run cushion before a rain delay halted things heading to the bottom of the seventh with reliever Michael Hurst coming on for the Tigers.
That was all for Friday night as the game was delayed until Saturday. Resuming play following an 8-2 Vanderbilt win in game one, Woodall came on instead and pitched a scoreless seventh, giving up just a single to Pedro Alvarez in the process.
Hunter Morris homered for the Tigers along with fellow freshman Kevin Patterson.
Reliever Russell Brewer came on for the Commodores and with one out Morris extended Auburn’s lead with a long home run to right field. His ninth homer of the year and fifth in SEC play gave the Tigers a 6-3 lead. Woodall then shut the door on the Commodores as Woodall earned his ninth save of the season with three scoreless innings in the win.
“I’m not used to coming on in the seventh so it was a different situation for me,” Woodall said. “I didn’t really try to overpower anybody and just tried to let my ball work. It did a real good job. The guys did a good job behind me. When I’m throwing ground balls and they are making plays we’ve got a chance to win.”
The continuation on Saturday backed up what was a very solid performance from starting pitcher Grant Dayton and also for Vandy’s Mike Minor. Pitching six innings, Dayton allowed just three runs on nine hits and struck out three without a walk. Minor was equally as impressive, giving up five runs on seven hits while striking out nine, allowing three runs in the seventh.
The Tigers got on the board first on Friday night thanks to the long ball. Batting in the second inning, Cunningham worked a walk from Minor to bring Patterson to the plate. Getting ahead 3-0 in the count, Patterson took strike one, but jumped on a fastball on the next pitch and drove it deep to right field for a home run. The two-run shot gave Auburn the early lead and Dayton some cushion against a powerful Vandy offense.
It didn’t take long for the Commodores to bounce back as Andrew Giobbi’s one-out double got things started in the bottom of the second and one out later Shea Robin’s triple scored him to cut the Auburn lead in half. With Minor in the midst of striking out six consecutive Tigers before a Mummey groundout to end the fifth, the Commodores went to work on offense in the bottom of the inning.
Leading off Robin reached on a bloop single and Parker Hanks followed with a blooper of his own to give the Commodores two base runners for the first time on the night. Just trying to bunt the runners over, David Macias reached for a single to load the bases with nobody out and the heart of the order coming to the plate. That’s when Dayton reached for something deep. Getting Alex Feinberg on an infield fly, Dayton got Alvarez to ground out and Ryan Flaherty on a ground ball to first to end the inning with Vanderbilt scoring just one to tie the game at two.
Auburn had a chance to break the tie in the top of the sixth as Justin Hargett led off with a walk and moved to second on an errant pick off attempt by Minor, but it wasn’t to be. First Mike Bianucci struck out to bring Hunter Morris to the plate. In a steady rain, Morris drilled a fly ball to deep right field. Thinking the ball was down, Hargett ran from second only to see Dominic de la Osa track the ball down and throw to second for the double play to end the inning.
The Commodores then did what Auburn couldn’t do in the bottom of the inning as Giobbi’s third hit of the night, a one-out double, got Vandy started. Following a fly out to right field, Robin’s third hit of the night scored Giobbi as his single to right field easily pushed across the go-ahead run against Dayton. He recovered to strike out Hanks to end the inning, but Auburn now trailed 3-2. That set the stage for Auburn’s comeback victory over two days to even the series.
True freshman Bradley Hendrix (1-0, 4.74 ERA) gets the call on Sunday against Vanderbilt’s Nick Christiani (4-1, 3.57) as the Tigers try to earn their fourth series win in SEC play this season.