Auburn Wins Wild 9-7 Affair Against Jacksonville State
"We knew coming into this ballgame that we were going to be challenged by a very good Jacksonville State squad. I told our players that this game is going to come down to the little things that happen during a game," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "Nothing came easy for us tonight. Jacksonville State, as they did the first time, gave us everything we could handle."
The three homer game was Auburn's 34th multi-homer game of the season as Auburn improved to 41-19 on the season and 13-5 all-time in NCAA Regional-opening games.
Smith (4-0) picked up the win after entering in the fifth with a man on second and two down. Though he would allow his inherited runner to score, just the fourth of 12 he has allowed this season, he would throw the next 2 1/3 innings allowing only two runs (one earned) on five hits and a walk as Auburn went from down 4-3 to up 8-5 when he gave way to closer Austin Hubbard with a man on first in the eighth.
The reason for the turnaround in the score came in many different ways for the top hitting team out of the Southeastern Conference. In the fifth Auburn used a Justin Hargett (1-for-3, BB, 2 R) walk and a two-run home run off the bat of Justin Fradejas (2-for-4, 3 R, 2 RBI) to take a 5-4 lead, used a solo home run by Dan Gamache (1-for-3, 2 RBI) to go up 6-5 in the sixth and then scored two in the seventh on a pair of bunts, a groundout and a RBI infield single by Tony Caldwell (1-for-2).
"One of the things we talked about going into the season was finding different ways to score runs. Although we did hit some home runs today, if you really break the game down it, came down to some short things, some little things," Pawlowski said. "I thought (Justin) Hargett put down a nice base-hit bunt and Justin (Fradejas) put down another one where it forced a little action on (Jacksonville State's) pitcher (Austin Lucas), and we got some momentum going that inning...In a close ball game like this, I think it comes down to little things, and we were fortunate obviously to find a way to win today."
Those five runs enabled Hubbard to pick up his 10th save of the season and the 22nd of his career. His run of six consecutive outings without giving up a run was snapped in the eighth when he allowed back-to-back singles and a RBI groundout but that didn't prevent him from successfully converting a sixth straight save opportunity.
"It was very emotional because it was a big win," Hubbard said. "It was hot, there was a huge crowd, and it was back-and-forth all game which made the atmosphere that much bigger. It was a huge win, and we are all pumped to get that victory."
Auburn found itself down 1-0 after three as Jacksonville State (32-25) scored a run in the first on Andrew Edge's (2-for-5) RBI single through the left side and was held to three consecutive 1-2-3 innings to start the for the first time this season.
Fradejas changed that when he dropped down a bunt base hit, his 15th bunt base hit of the year, to start the fourth. Trent Mummy (1-for-4, R, RBI) followed with a stand-up double to the base of the wall in left-center, scoring Fradejas from first to tie the game at 1-1.
"We were struggling in the first three innings and had to get something going there. I was looking to get on base, and I got a good bunt down. Thankfully, that sparked a little rally and got us going offensively," Fradejas said.
Following Mummey's double, Brian Fletcher (1-for-3, BB, RBI) and Kevin Patterson (0-for-1, BB) each drew walks, setting the stage for Gamache. Having hit six of his seven home runs since April 27, Gamache appeared to have his eighth of the season, and his first career grand slam, when he sent a blast to almost dead-center. Only a perfectly timed, leaping grab by Jacksonville State center fielder Daniel Adamson turned the slam into a sacrifice fly, giving Auburn a 2-1 lead.
"I thought I had the grand slam. I rounded first base and, I didn't realize that the centerfielder had the ball. It was a heck of a play," Gamache said. "Coming back to win that game was a great confidence booster. We were able to collect some big hits and pull out this victory."
Ryan Jenkins (1-for-3) followed the sacrifice fly with a RBI single to put Auburn up 3-1.
Jacksonville State answered with three runs in the top of the fifth to go up 4-3 as Todd Cunningham (3-for-5, 4 RBI) hit a two-run home run and Kyle Bluestein's (2-for-5) RBI single off of Smith scored Edge.
That's when Fradejas belted his first home run since opening day over the wall in left to put Auburn back up on top, 5-4.
Again Jacksonville State responded with a run when Blake Seguin (3-for-3, 3 R) doubled down the line in left and went to third when Fradejas couldn't pick it up cleanly. A Cunningham single to left scored Seguin to make it 5-5 after the top of the sixth.
Gamache finally was able collect his eighth home run as he sent a 0-1 Cody Ponder (0-1) pitch over the monster in left, giving Auburn a lead it wouldn't relinquish to end the sixth up 6-5.
Auburn scored twice more in the seventh as Hargett dropped down a bunt base hit and went to third when Fradejas tried to sacrifice him to second, but instead reached on an error that allowed both runners to move into scoring position. A RBI groundout by Fletcher scored Hargett and Caldwell's infield single put Auburn up 8-5.
Jacksonville State scored two times in the eighth to get within a run at 8-7 as Orrin McFadden (0-for-3, R) led off the inning with a walk, prompting the move to Hubbard. He allowed back-to-back singles to Seguin and Cunningham but then retired the next six hitters to pick up the save.
Casey McElroy's (1-for-4) seventh home run of the year with one out in the eighth added an insurance run for Auburn.
Neither starting pitcher could make it out of the fifth as Lucas allowed five runs on five hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings for Jacksonville State and Cory Luckie allowed four runs on six hits and three walks in the same amount of time.
The game was played in front of a sellout crowd of 4,096, with many more fans taking in the game from the parking deck adjacent to the field down the left field line and a cluster of people on the hill beyond the wall in center. The sellout was Auburn's first since the 2008 season.
There are a limited number of terrace seats available for tomorrow night's game between Auburn and Clemson and they will go on sale at noon at the Plainsman Park ticket office.