Auburn showed great resiliency Sunday afternoon after going toe-to-toe with No. 1 Tennessee, but came up short in a 5-3 loss to lose the series.
Tennessee’s two-run home run in the eighth inning to break a 3-3 tie eventually became the game-winning hit.
"It was a battle all the way through," said head coach Butch Thompson. "The effort was tremendous. We fought in our at-bats, and Joseph gave us an unbelievable opportunity like he does every third game. Credit to our guys who didn't blink after Friday and pushed this series all the way to late Sunday to give us a chance to win this series."
Auburn saw itself trailing early, just like it did in the first two games of the series, when Tennessee scored three runs in the first inning. In the two previous games, the Volunteers jumped out to an lead in the first or second inning to put Auburn on its back foot early.
Down three runs, Auburn showed great tenacity to get back into the game. Auburn showed signs of life when Bobby Peirce opened the fifth inning with a solo home run.
Peirce was the hero in game two when he hit the eventual game-winning home run in the ninth inning and was the only Tiger to record more than one hit on Sunday.
Cole Foster brought Auburn one run closer by hitting a sacrifice fly in the same inning to score Brooks Carlson.
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Steady pitching from Joseph Gonzalez allowed Auburn to storm back and tie the game. Gonzalez, after surrendering three first-inning runs, retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced and pitched six consecutive scoreless innings to weather the storm.
“I was so excited to get to the ballpark today with Joseph on the mound,” Thompson said. “We'll continue the same mindset and keep moving forward and try to put our best foot forward anytime we step on the field with an Auburn uniform on."
The Tigers finally equalized the game thanks to another piece of clutch hitting from Peirce.
The redshirt junior smoked a single to left field, and Kason Howell scored from second base to tie the game. After the tying run, Auburn had two runners on base with nobody out but failed to plate another run.
Largely due to the pitching of Tennessee pitcher Ben Joyce, Auburn never found a winning run. Joyce came into the game in relief in the sixth inning and was nearly perfect.
The right-handed pitcher pitched four innings and gave up zero runs on one hit. He also struck out six batters and recorded the fastest pitch in college baseball history, a 105.5 MPH fastball.
For the first time since the first inning, Tennessee finally made Gonzalez pay with a two-run blast in the eighth inning to put the Volunteers on top and win the game.
Gonzalez pitched 7.1 innings and allowed five runs on seven hits while striking out two batters.
Auburn returns home on Friday to face the Arkansas Razorbacks in a three-game series with first pitch of the first game starting at 7 p.m. CST.
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