Auburn's Garrett Cooper rounds third and scores a run in the 6th inning. - Todd Van Emst
Auburn opened the season in thrilling fashion, recording a walk-off win over the Maine Black Bears.
JUCO transfer Damek Tomscha hit Auburn's first walk-off homer in nearly three years, as the newly pinstriped Tigers rallied to beat the Black Bears, 3-2, Friday afternoon at Plainsman Park.
Tomscha led off the home half of the ninth by working Maine reliever Shaun Coughlin to a 3-1 count before before turning on a pitch and clearing the wall in left. He also drove home Garret Cooper with a double in the sixth that gave Auburn its first lead after trailing 1-0.
Brian Fletcher's walk-off against Boston College on Feb. 26, 2010 was the last time the Tigers ended the game on a dinger.
Starter Daniel Koger pitched well, going five strong innings with only a rough second frame leaving him with one unearned run. He struck out two and allowed three hits and two walks.
Potential starter Trey Cochran-Gill relived Koger and came out for two innings sandwiched around Tomscha's go-ahead double, but he only finished the sixth as he made way for Conner Kendrick with one on and one out in he seventh. Kendrick got out of the inning and threw a few brilliant breaking balls to get deep into the ninth, and transfer Terrance Dedrick got a strikeout to end the ninth -- and eventually got the win -- bringing Tomscha to the plate.
Head coach John Pawlowski went with two freshmen in the outfield -- left field was clear due to a Cullen Wacker suspension -- but the majority of the lineup featured familiar faces from last season. Standing out among them were catcher Blake Austin with two hits and Cooper, who had an RBI double and a run. Freshman left fielder Jackson Burgreen hit lead-off and finished with two doubles and run.
But the highlight of the day outside the home run was freshman right fielder Sam Gillikin making a catch at the wall, saving at least two runs and recording the last out of the day for Koger.
Although a few baserunning negatives in the form of a pick off and thrown out would-be stealer helped keep Auburn off the board for longer than the Tigers would have liked, the comeback after the sixth showed flashes of the bats that led the SEC in hitting last year. Pawlowski told radio broadcaster Andy Burcham after the game that he was proud of the fight in the guys and especially appreciated the crowd of 4,000 that helped make a great Opening Day atmosphere.
The baseball picks back up at noon Saturday with Rocky McCord throwing for Auburn against Maine's Scott Heath. A second game against an undecided pitcher for Maine follows, with the Tigers' Michael O'Neal getting the nod for that start.