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Fourth-inning explosion leads Auburn to first SEC Tournament win since 2019

<p>Auburn outfielder Chris Stanfield celebrates after hitting a double in the SEC Tournament on May 23, 2023.</p>

Auburn outfielder Chris Stanfield celebrates after hitting a double in the SEC Tournament on May 23, 2023.

Auburn fought back from two deficits Tuesday night as the Tigers stormed back against Missouri and clinched its first victory in the SEC Tournament since 2019, winning 10-4.

Auburn trailed 1-0 in the second and 4-3 in the fourth but clawed back both times to win its ninth straight SEC game and advance to the second round of the tournament.

"I thought we were a little out of character early," said head coach Butch Thompson. "I didn't like everything. I don't care if it was a ball or strike I just thought our engine was ramped a little too much."

Missouri struck first, scoring one run in the top of the second, but Auburn responded with three runs in the bottom of the third by way of a bases-loaded walk, Chris Stanfield scoring from third on a fielder's choice and a sacrifice fly from Bryson Ware. Auburn, with all the momentum and a pro-Auburn crowd surrounding it, lost the lead in the top of the fourth however, as Missouri plated four runs.

An error in the outfield by Bobby Peirce allowed Missouri's Trevor Austin to reach second where he later scored off another error from Auburn. Of Missouri's four runs in the inning, only two were earned after Auburn's two errors in the inning.

The Missouri lead did not last half an inning as a Stanfield single scored Caden Green from second. With Stanfield on first and Nate LaRue on third, Cole Foster stepped into the batter's box and delivered a three-run blast over the wall in right field to give Auburn the lead, a lead it did not lose the rest of the game. Foster's home run was his 12th of the season and measured at a projected distance of 416 feet.

Auburn starting pitcher Tommy Vail was pulled after 3.2 innings and replaced by senior Chase Isbell. The Springville, Alabama, native set the tone for an efficient outing from the Auburn bullpen, which only used two pitchers after Vail.

"I thought Chase Isbell settled the game for us just a little bit and then Cole Foster's home run just really allowed us to exhale and get back to playing our brand of baseball," Thompson said.

Isbell pitched three innings of scoreless baseball while giving up three hits and striking out two. Freshman Zach Crotchfelt replaced Isbell and went 2.1 innings and gave up just one hit and struck out four of eight batters faced.

Auburn added insurance late in the game with three more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, marking three innings where the Tigers scored three or more runs. Peirce doubled after the Missouri center fielder misjudged a fly ball, allowing the ball to land over his head which scored Foster from first.

The lead extended even further when Ware hammered a ball over the left field wall to make it a 10-4 ballgame. Ware's home run brought his tally to 22 on the season, one shy of the Auburn program record for home runs in a season.

Auburn improved to 34-19-1 this season and advanced to the second round of the SEC Tournament while Missouri fell to 30-24 and is eliminated from the tournament. Auburn will play No. 4 seed Vanderbilt on Wednesday, a team it has not faced this season. The game will be televised on SEC Network and will take place 30 minutes after the conclusion of Florida vs Alabama. 

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Jacob Waters | Assistant Sports Editor

Jacob Waters is a junior majoring in journalism. From Leeds, Alabama, he started with The Plainsman in fall 2021.

Twitter: @JacobWaters_

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