From the tournament bubble to the hosting bubble, Auburn continued its improbable season turnaround with a comeback win over Missouri to sweep its final regular-season series.
Down 7-4 in the eighth inning, the Tigers rallied to score five runs, sending 10 batters to the plate as they turned the three-run deficit into a two-run win.
“That wasn’t clean as a whistle,” said head coach Butch Thompson. “That’s like you’re locked in full drive right out of the gate and it just felt like it was going to be one of those days.”
The story in both games of Friday’s doubleheader was the dominant Auburn starting pitching, with starters Chase Allsup and Konner Copeland combining to allow just one earned run. On Saturday, starter Drew Nelson lasted just 0.2 innings and gave up three earned runs.
In what amounted to a bullpen game for the Tigers (33-19-1, 17-13 SEC), Tanner Bauman gave the Tigers a performance they desperately needed. Bauman, after pitching in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, pitched 3.2 innings — at one point retiring 11 straight Missouri batters — and gave up three hits and two runs.
“I knew that, at some point, the bats were going to get alive,” Bauman said. “So you just go out there and you just try to fill up the zone.”
Will Cannon (W, 3-1), also pitching for the second straight day, earned the win for the Tigers. Cannon faced five batters to end the game, only giving up a hit-by-pitch. Despite dealing with a stomach bug, Tommy Vail also made a two-inning apperance. Vail was scratched from his Friday start due to the illness.
Early in the game, Nate LaRue was the offensive star. In the second inning, LaRue missed a home run by mere inches, with the ball hitting the top of the wall and going out for a ground-rule double. In his next at-bat, in the fourth inning, LaRue got the homer on his Senior Day.
Though he is just a freshman, Ike Irish was another star of Senior Day. Irish 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and the winning single.
Auburn had to battle from behind throughout the game, falling behind 3-0 before the Tigers came up to bat. For the first five innings, the teams traded blows with Auburn maintaining a one-run deficit throughout the second through seventh innings.
“They’re playing for their lives and we’re playing excellent and just kept getting within one run of them,” Thompson said.
Though Auburn was behind, the players had confidence the Tigers could pull ahead.
“We’ve definitely had games where it’s been a little down in the dugout,” Irish said. “But it felt like all game we were so close to breaking it open.”
Then in the eighth inning, the game’s action reached its climax. After Missouri (30-23, 10-20 SEC) hit a two-run homer to extend its lead to 7-4, the Auburn bats came alive in the bottom of the frame.
Pinch hitter Brody Wortham singled to start the inning and scored on an error in left field after a Chris Stanfield double. Foster singled to bring home Stanfield and scored to tie the game on a two-out wild pitch. After senior Bryson Ware was intentionally walked, Irish capped off the scoring by singling through the left side, bringing home two runs.
“I wish they didn’t walk Bryson because Bryson would’ve done the same thing I did,” Irish said. “But they did and that’s how it goes and that’s baseball. But, just tried to put the ball in play and things worked out.”
In the inning, 10 Tigers came up to bat and five scored. The Tigers’ three-run deficit had turned into a two-run lead in just one inning. Cannon retired the top of Missouri’s lineup in order to close out the game.
The Tigers, who sat at 5-10 in SEC play at the halfway mark, finished the regular season with a 17-13 SEC record — a game better than the 2022 team that hosted a regional. The win gave Auburn an eight-game SEC winning streak, its best since 1995, and continues the Tigers’ momentum as the postseason looms.
“We’re just having fun,” Bauman said. “All of us are just trying to do our job and not do anything more complicated. We’re just going out there and playing baseball the way it should be played.”
The Tigers will look to add to their host resume at the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama. Auburn will begin tournament play on Tuesday at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
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Matthew is a senior from Huntsville, Alabama, majoring in journalism. He started with The Plainsman in fall 2021.