Saturday’s tie-breaking, regular season-ending rubber game between No. 22 Auburn and LSU lived up to its pressure-packed status through a pair of innings at a sun-splashed Plainsman Park.
Following a Brandt Broussard RBI double in the top of the second, which scored the game’s first run, Auburn responded with an RBI single from freshman Edouard Julien, who was 1 for his last 23 in Auburn’s previous five outings. The play scored Brendan Venter, who led off the inning with a double and moved to third with a sacrifice, a sequence leadoff hitter Will Holland mimicked in the following inning to put Auburn up 2-1.
Auburn starter Andrew Mitchell came out chucking heat, racking up four strikeouts and five straight retired batters in the fourth inning. LSU’s Nick Coomes snapped that streak with a solo homer over the monster in left, tying the game at 2 apiece.
Coomes’ hit would be the last meaningful play for LSU.
Senior Luke Jarvis turned in four RBIs in his final regular season game as a Tiger, sophomore Will Holland knocked in his ninth and 10th extra base hits of the series and southpaw senior Andrew Mitchell controlled the purple and gold on the mound as Auburn defeated LSU, 14-5 to secure at least the No. 7 seed in next week’s SEC Tournament. The series victory is the first over LSU since 2012.
"I thought everyone was having great at-bats," Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said. "There was a lot of table setting today; there was a lot of guys getting a single with two strikes or taking their walks to create great offense."
Mitchell pitched seven innings, the longest outing of the New Orleans native and LSU transfer's career. After the early scare, the redshirt senior recovered to tie a career-high nine strikeouts and the victory (2-1) over his former team in possibly his final home game as an Auburn Tiger.
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"Definitely there's been some times where you're like, 'Am I doing better? Am I helping the team?'" Mitchell said. "Securing us a couple wins made it all worth it. Hopefully I can continue to do that in the postseason."
After fizzing through three innings, Auburn’s (37-19, 15-15) offense unbottled in the fourth as Jarvis and Holland smashed three-run and two-run homers, respectively. Once the pair of homers cracked the game open, the orange and blue Tigers buried LSU (33-23, 15-15), scoring two runs in the fifth, three in the sixth and two in the seventh.
Holland topped off his one-man wrecking crew weekend with a combined 10-for-14 clip, including his pair of Saturday home runs, four doubles and six RBIs. The All-SEC hopeful advanced his batting average from .301 to .329 in the three home games.
"It's a fun atmosphere to compete in," Holland said. "I've got my brothers with me and that makes it even more fun, especially when (Jarvis) drops bombs. It's incredible to watch."
Holland was one of three Tigers to record four RBIs in the contest (Julien, Jarvis) and was the fifth with multiple hits (Venter, Julien, Jarvis, Anthony).
The win secures at least the seventh seed in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama, next week for Auburn. Vanderbilt (15-14) can grab the sixth spot with a win over Kentucky tonight, however a loss will push the Tigers into that slot thanks to Auburn’s sweep over the Commodores two weekends ago.
“We’ve just been through a lot," Thompson said of his team's 11-4 finish in the SEC after a 4-8 start. "What I’ll try to sell to them is that these 10 weeks have prepared you for anything. You will not see anything moving forward that you haven’t already experienced. And that’s what makes a team dangerous.
"I like the journey this team has been on. I can get behind this. They've been through a lot, and at the end of the day, they held their head up pretty good. I think we're in good shape."
The No. 6 seed would match Auburn up with No. 11 seed Tuesday, March 22 at 9:30 a.m. CST, and the No. 7 spot would be the following game on the same day against No. 10.
"There's a little bit more excitement in the postseason because you know it could be over very quickly," Jarvis said. "Things are amped up; it means a little bit more. But the bottom line is it's just baseball. As long we stick to that we'll be pretty good."
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