Friday afternoon I mentioned in my preview of this series that the Tigers would need to get the bats going or hope that the pitching is on fire. Thankfully, the bats did, in fact, wake up.
This could have been a sweep for Auburn, and it also could have been a series victory for Oral Roberts. It was definitely a back-and-forth series, that's for sure.
Friday (7-8 Loss)
Friday was the most back-and-forth game, as the visiting Golden Eagles jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks to two-run innings in the first and third. Auburn got back in it thanks to three runs of their own in the bottom third. They added two more in the fourth for the 5-4 lead. Two of those runs came courtesy of two separate Niko Buentello hits, increasing his already SEC-leading RBI totals. Oral Roberts would add four in the sixth to retake the lead 8-5.
That's where the score would stand until the bottom of the ninth, when Auburn mounted a late rally. The score got to 8-7, and Auburn had the bases loaded with two outs when red-hot Anfernee Grier came to the plate. With Grier up, the Auburn faithful were hopeful for big things. Unfortunately, what they got was controversy, instead.
Grier hit a ground ball along the left field line that was fielded in foul territory. Unfortunately, the umpire ruled it fair, the Golden Eagles' third baseman stepped on the bag, and the game was over.
Saturday (10-1 Win)
Even with Friday's loss, 7 runs with 11 hits was a good sign for the Tigers, and it was a sign of things to come for Saturday and Sunday. The bats were awake and they were hot. Freshman Casey Mize pitched a brilliant 7 innings, allowing only one run in the fifth, to garner his first career win as a Tiger. Gordon Cardenas finished the game off for him.
Auburn picked up 10 runs on 14 hits in Saturday's contest. Anfernee Grier continued his hitting streak with a solo home run in the 3rd. Other Tigers getting in on the fun in that game were Nike Buentello, Jordan Ebert, Blake Logan, Cody Nulph, and Josh Palacios. All ended the game with at least one RBI. Palacios has reached base in every game so far this season, although not always through hits like Grier.
Sunday (18-11 Victory)
Everyone got involved in the hitting fun in Sunday's contest. Grier and Buentello both hit home runs, bringing their totals to four each. That's already more than any single Tiger reached in all of the 2015 campaign. Grier's was a three run shot over the Little Monster that also extended his hit streak. He has a hit in every single game this year. Cody Nulph hit his 11th double of the season in the bottom of the 8th to bring in two more runs. That made the score 17-11 at the time.
On the pitching side, things weren't as rosy. Auburn's 4-run third inning gave the Tigers the early lead, but Oral Roberts answered back with 5 runs of their own on Cole Lipscomb. The Tigers tied the game in the fourth, only to see the Golden Eagles get it right back with 2 runs in the fifth. Auburn once again scored 2 to tie it in the bottom half of the fifth, and Oral Roberts scored one in the top of the sixth for the 8-7 lead. Cole Lipscomb was responsible for 7 of Oral Roberts' runs on the day.
The bottom of the sixth is when the Tigers blew things opened. Grier's three run shot came in this inning as part of seven total Auburn runs to put the score at 14-8. Oral Roberts wasn't about to go quietly, though. They added 3 of their own in the top of the 8th to cut the lead to 14-11. Unfortunately for them, Auburn wasn't finished. A few walks, the Nulph double, and Auburn went into the top of the ninth with an 18-11 lead.
Four Tiger pitchers got in on the relief action: Gabe Klobosits, Isaac Yarbrough, Ben Braymer, and Daniel Sprinkle. Sprinkle came in in the top of the ninth to close the game out.
The Story of the Series
The main story of this one is the bats. Auburn has struggled at getting runs across the plate even while Palacios reached every game, Grier has gotten a hit in every game, Buentello leads the SEC in RBIs with 27, and the Tigers are stealing all sorts of bases to get runners in scoring position. In this series, Auburn was finally able to capitalize on those efforts and pick up a total of 35 runs in the three games.
Auburn's starting pitching did an OK job over the weekend. Camp allowed 5 runs on Friday, Mize a single run on Saturday, and Lipscomb 7 runs Sunday afternoon. It wasn't great, and it wasn't what Auburn needs going into the SEC schedule, though. There are still some things to be figured out there, including the exact rotations. There are some talented pitchers on the roster who can do what needs to be done.
Auburn has one more non-conference game to go before the SEC schedule begins. The Tigers will travel to Atlanta this week for a rematch of last Tuesday's game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Auburn dropped that one 4-1. Perhaps with the bats on fire, the outcome will be different in this one. That game will be Tuesday at 5pm CDT.