It may not have been flawless, but it was a win. Auburn baseball tops Oregon State 7-5 to take game one of the Corvallis Super Regional.
The bats were hot, with seven hits for the Beavers and 10 for the Tigers, but Auburn also left nine batters stranded through the night. The bullpen worked efficiently, though, and stranded the same number of Oregon State runners.
Auburn was immediately thrown a curveball when they arrived for batting practice. Beaver ace Cooper Hjerpe was set to pitch for Oregon State but would not be playing due to an unspecified illness. Instead, junior Jake Pfennigs took the mound.
“We immediately run and—like all you guys have you laptops—we immediately run to that,” said head coach Butch Thompson. “We've been poring over that for the entire week. Prior to the trip, and even in the hotel, we've been poring over everybody we potentially could see.”
Undeterred, Auburn simply referred to their scouting report and moved with the change. The change was to no detrimental effect because third to the plate, Sonny DiChiara sent a home run sailing to the scoreboard. The pair of runs opened up a lead that Oregon State only held once.
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Auburn starter Trace Bright had a rough go in the first, facing nine batters and giving up four runs. After throwing 47 pitches, he was pulled in favor of John Armstrong. Through the end of the second, the freshman allowed no hits and threw just 15 pitches.
“I thought we needed a night where our bullpen had to step up and throw at game time,” Thompson said. “We just we haven't had that for a while since we were bounced in the first game of the SEC Tournament.”
Starter Pfennigs went 2.2 innings, allowing five of the Tigers’ runs on four hits. A pair of Tiger hits in the second inning scored an additional pair of runs. Pfennigs was pulled in the third after a single and three walks plated an Auburn run.
Brock Townsend was second to pitch for the Beavers, who stopped the bleeding in the third but gave up the second home run of the night to big Bobby Peirce in the opening of the fifth.
Only two Tigers went hitless, with the heart of the order holding strong. Brody Moore and Mike Bello were the only Auburn players with multiple hits on the night, combining for half the team’s hits.
Tommy Sheehan and Carson Skipper combined for more than six innings of work on the mound, with just two hits between them and account for eight of 12 strikeouts. Sheehan took the win and earned the team’s Top Gun hat that is internally awarded for superior performance.
Blake Burkhalter stepped in for his usual closing role, facing five batters and giving up a run in a pair of hits, but getting the Tigers out of the game while ahead on the scoreboard.
“Burkhalter comes in the game because eventually we might have to finish a ball game like we did tonight. If we have any interest in trying to win a championship and you can't—you don't get a chance to do that if you don't get out of here,” Thompson said. “But still, we're coaching and managing what we're trying to win the big one.”
Up next, the Tigers and Beavers will return for game two of the Super Regional. A best-of-three series, Auburn is one win away from advancing to the College World Series. The game will begin at 9 p.m. CST and again airs on ESPN2.
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