Auburn’s bats were hot Tuesday night as the Tigers ended their final home game of the season with a 14-6 win over North Alabama. Rankin Woley ended his time at Plainsman Park with a career-high in RBIs, coming a triple shy of the cycle.
Auburn improves to 23-25 overall on the season but still sits on the bubble of the upcoming SEC Tournament with a conference record of 8-19.
North Alabama came out swinging in the top of the first, with Drew Hudson starting the game with a leadoff double down the left-field line. Hudson advanced to third on Devne Daniel’s single to left field, but Daniel’s attempt to stretch it into a double turned into an out for the Tigers. Two groundouts ended the first for the Lions.
The Tigers struck back in the bottom of the first, knocking in four runs off five straight hits courtesy of the top of the Tigers’ lineup.
“I was so glad to see our offense come out and score those four runs,” said head coach Butch Thompson. “The first two times through the lineup, maybe not at the bottom, but the top five or six in our order had great at-bats.”
UNA evened it up in the second with a leadoff homer over the left-field wall. Starting pitcher Jack Sokol gave up three walks as the Lions scored two more runs to tie the game 4-4.
Auburn scored three runs in the bottom of the third, which all started with a leadoff double from Woley. UNA starting pitcher Chase Best's night ended after Bryson Ware knocked Woley in. Bryce Parrish came out of the bullpen for the final out of the third inning.
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The Lions scored one run in the top of the fourth off a pair of doubles before Blake Burkhalter was brought in with two outs. Auburn tacked on two more runs in the fourth off Tyler Miller’s home run to right field, bringing the score to 9-5.
Thompson felt like Auburn settled down and took control after allowing zero runs in the top of the fifth.
“It took to the top of the fifth inning when we put up a goose egg after we scored, but it seemed like we finally settled the game,” Thompson said. “The first two times where we scored, UNA responded immediately in the next half.”
After two strikeouts to start the bottom of the fifth, catcher Nate LaRue sparked some momentum for the Tigers with a solo shot to right center. Two more hits followed before Woley hit a three-run home run, giving Auburn an eight-run lead as Woley set his career-high in RBIs, with five on the night.
“The last three weeks if you really look at [Woley’s] at-bats, it’s been pretty impressive,” Thompson said.
The Lions came up empty in the sixth as Auburn added an insurance run to make it a 14-5 game.
UNA showed signs of turning things around in the seventh inning and loaded the bases with one out against Cam Hill. Hill struck out pinch hitter Garrett Smith before walking in the Lions’ sixth run. Will Morrison came out of the bullpen to end the rally, striking out first baseman Harris Kain to end the top of the seventh.
Brooks Fuller closed out the eighth and ninth for Auburn, allowing one hit and no runs.
Burkhalter took the win for Auburn, and Woley led the team in hits and RBIs.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to be here and play, and I tried to give it everything I possibly had on and off the field, and I’m glad it ended on a high note,” Woley said.
The Tigers now look ahead to a three-game series at Missouri, which could be decisive in taking the 12th and final spot in the SEC Tournament. Thompson said Tuesday’s win put them in a good spot for the weekend.
“I think we head to Missouri early in the morning with a couple of goals accomplished: Winning a ball game and making sure that our pitching is in the best shape it possibly can be for this critical series,” Thompson said.
The first game in the Auburn and Missouri series will be on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. CST with the game airing on SEC Network-plus.
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