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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn beats Troy behind strong hitting performance

<p>Cole Foster (7) throws the ball to Blake Rambusch (1) during an inning change on March 2, 2022 at Plainsman Park in Auburn, Ala.</p>

Cole Foster (7) throws the ball to Blake Rambusch (1) during an inning change on March 2, 2022 at Plainsman Park in Auburn, Ala.

In Auburn baseball’s first trip to Troy since 2018, the Tigers took an 11-4 win over the Trojans. The Auburn batters got 17 hits on the night and the pitching staff held Troy to seven scoreless innings. 

“As soon as we got through the second time through the lineup, everybody was locked in and had some great at-bats,” said head coach Butch Thompson. “Sonny [DiChiara] had a hit and [Blake] Rambusch got us another three hits tonight.”

Rambusch’s three hits brought him to 200 career hits through 149 games at both Grayson College and Auburn. Rambusch has 73 hits in his first season at Auburn, batting in 34 runs in the process. 

“Definitely a cool little milestone to get to and definitely something I’ve worked towards for a long time,” Rambusch said. “It was a good reset for us for these next two weeks coming up.”

Freshman Jordan Armstrong started on the mound for the Tigers, having appeared in eleven games throughout the season. He had pitched a total of 8.2 innings coming into the night and allowed six runs through those. 

“Armstrong was really good for four innings there. Didn’t have many pitches and then kind of what he’s done a couple times, just kind of lost his own there,” Thompson said. 

The Auburn offense got on the board in the second. A Brody Moore single followed by a Mason Land double put Moore in scoring position. Trojan starter Bay Witcher lost control of a pitch, allowing Moore across the plate when catcher Clay Stearns failed to make the play in time.

Auburn got a read on Witcher early. In his previous 47.1 innings of the season, Witcher only allowed 36 runs. His day finished with nine runs off as many hits in just three innings. 

Later in the second, a sacrifice fly from Nate LaRue brought in Land, with an on-time throw coming from right field but Stearns could not get the tag. 

In the top of the third, DiChiara homered over the right field wall to score three runs and put the Tigers well ahead. Three hits later and Bobby Peirce scored to go up by six, with Auburn leaving one stranded to close out the inning. 

“I’ve said it before: me and Rambusch, just trying to get on base so Sonny can do his thing. If hits can come out of that and that’s obviously trying to hit the ball hard, but ultimately any way to get on base, that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Kason Howell. 

Armstrong shut out the Trojans until the fifth when he lost control and loaded the bases, then hit a batter to walk in Troy’s first run of the day. In from the bullpen, a single on Konnor Copeland’s first batter would score the second and third runs for the Trojans. 

“I was pleased with how we used our bullpen tonight. I think that sets us up for the weekend,” Thompson said. “Starting with Copeland with 12 pitches, [Chase] Isbell with with 17. [Tyler] Drabick got in there for the first time in a long time and got eight pitches. [Brooks] Fuller bounced back with two outings here in just two days.”

In the top of the sixth, Cameron Gray allowed three hits and a walk, allowing an Auburn run and loading the bases as the top of the order came to the plate in Rambusch. The Troy defense capitalized, snagging the hit and stranding three runners to save the inning. 

Isbell replaced Copeland in the bottom of the sixth, striking out one and leaving a runner stranded. Isbell’s effort was enough to keep the Trojans scoreless for back-to-back innings and he took the win for the day. 

Troy’s fourth run came off a home run in the bottom of the seventh, given up by Drabick before he was pulled. Fuller came in to close out the inning, stranding one and allowing no more runs. 

Auburn got just one hit in the eighth from Moore and he was left stranded, the final Tiger hit of the day. In the bottom of the inning, Blake Burkhalter came in for his usual closing role. 

“Getting Blake Burkhalter back on the mound today, I thought, was huge,” Thompson said. “I thought the first four or five pitches he threw there in the eighth, he was just steering the ball and he was just kind of cutting and guiding and then he started driving it home. The last pitch of the ball game was just putting it all together with the backwards K.”

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The 1.1 innings for Burkhalter were his first back after a hamstring issue put an early end to his outing at Tennessee. This rest and return could be critical if he is to contribute as the Tigers close out the regular season. 

“It’s extremely important because you can let a game like this slip away and this game has big intentions when you think about the whole season,” Howell said. “To come here and take care of business was big after some struggles with Arkansas.”

Up next, Auburn hosts Alabama for its final home series of the season. With just six SEC games left, the series against the Tide will be key for Auburn to maintain its winning conference record. 

“We’re jacked up. We’re excited about getting our rivals in at Plainsman Park,” Howell said. “We’re ready to go.”

Game one of the weekend begins Friday at 7:30 p.m. and can be found on the SEC Network. 

Callie Stanford | Sports Editor

Callie Stanford, junior in communications, is the sports editor at the Auburn Plainsman. Currently a junior, she has been with The Plainsman since January 2021.

Twitter: @Stanford1Callie

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