- David Helman, Reporter, RecruitingNation
The No. 13 LSU baseball team avoided a sweep Sunday against Auburn with the same clutch hitting that had proved elusive earlier in the weekend.
The Tigers (18-6, 3-3) broke a 3-3 tie in the ninth inning of Sunday's series finale after two straight days of coming up short in similar situations. Jared Foster, who has struggled in recent weeks, proved to be the game-winning run when he walked to lead off the top of the ninth. After third baseman Tyler Hanover bunted Foster to second base, JaCoby Jones (who managed just three hits for the series) singled to bring him home for a 4-3 lead.
Kurt McCune, who lost his spot as the Tigers' Sunday starter to Aaron Nola last weekend, entered the game in the bottom of the ninth and earned the save by holding Auburn scoreless.
The Tigers' delivery in the last inning offset what would have been a disheartening collapse. LSU jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning thanks to a RBI single from Raph Rhymes and a two-out, two-RBI single from Ty Ross.
Auburn cut it to a 3-2 game off a two-run homer from center fielder Ryan Tella in the sixth inning. The Tigers capped off the comeback in the next frame with an RBI single that punctuated the end of Nola's start.
The win saved LSU from a dreaded conference sweep, and it was also another highly-dramatic installment in the series. All three games between the two sets of Tigers were decided by one run for a combined weekend score of 10-9 in Auburn's favor.
Reversal of fortune: Jones' clutch hit in the ninth was the exact opposite of the Tigers' fate earlier in the weekend, particularly on Saturday. LSU fell to Auburn, 3-2, in extra innings in the series' second game. Jones once again had a chance to clinch a win for LSU in the top of the ninth. The Tigers managed to load the bases against Auburn with just one out, only for Jones to ground into a double play and end the inning.
Auburn clinched the win in the 10th inning with a sacrifice fly from shortstop Dan Glevenyak.
Late-game heroics eluded LSU once again in Friday's series opener. In a reversal of the finale, it was Auburn that broke a 3-3 tie in the late innings. A two-out ninth inning double from Austin Nola gave LSU hope for a rally, but pinch runner Arby Fields was thrown out trying to tie the game at home plate after an Auburn throwing error.
Pitching report: Nola went 7.1 innings in his second SEC start after dropping his conference debut to Mississippi State last weekend. Nola didn't pick up the win, however. That honor went to Chris Cotton, who came in to close out Auburn's rally.
Kevin Gausman and Ryan Eades each put in solid efforts on Friday and Saturday, respectively. They weren't able to earn decisions in losing efforts, though. Gausman only lasted five innings in Friday's loss, but he managed eight strikeouts. Eades went 7.1 innings, allowing seven hits and two earned runs. The pair's relief couldn't keep pace.
Positioning: The win keeps LSU at .500 in conference play, which puts the Tigers into a jam with fellow 3-3 squad No. 19 Ole Miss. No. 3 Arkansas sits on top of the Western standings at 5-1 after a series win against Mississippi State. Auburn keeps its hold on second place at 4-2.
8dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough