BATON ROUGE, La. - Auburn claimed its first series win in Baton Rouge since 2011, defeating No. 13 LSU, 6-4, in the series finale Saturday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium.
The series win marked Auburn's fourth straight Southeastern Conference road series win dating back to last season. It marks the first time Auburn has won four straight conference road series since 1997-98.
"We keep doing things with a lot of people contributing and it being team wins," head coach Butch Thompson said. "We've been seeing this coming for months. This was a tough stretch, and our guys have battled. It's big to win two series on the road. I'm proud of them for that.
"We've built some confidence, but we have seven more weeks in this league, and they're all just like this," Thompson added. "However, we absolutely gained something from this."
Sonny DiChiara collected a season-high four hits, including his eighth homer of the season, and drove in three runs to lead the offense.
"This one definitely feels awesome," DiChiara said. "My first four-hit game in a conference game being down here at The Box is awesome. It's so fun playing in environments like this."
Sophomore right-hander Joseph Gonzalez (3-0, 2.31) earned the win, holding LSU to three runs in six innings, while Blake Burkhalter earned his sixth save of the season and second of the weekend.
"That was huge," Burkhalter said. "We needed that. It was big for the team, especially in front of this crowd and getting the job done."
Auburn (19-9, 5-4 SEC) wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard with a run in the top of the first. Kason Howell drew a one-out walk and DiChiara smoked a double to right center before Brody Moore's sacrifice fly to center field made it 1-0.
Gonzalez set LSU (19-9, 4-5 SEC) down in order in the first, but the home Tigers managed to tie the game with three straight singles to start the second. Gonzalez did a good job to minimize the damage as he retired three straight to leave a pair stranded.
Auburn squared up a number of balls in the early innings but couldn't get many to fall until Ryan Dyal found space in shallow center field for a two-out RBI single in the fourth. LSU threatened with two on and one out in the home half, but Gonzalez induced a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play.
After preserving the lead in the fourth, Auburn extended its advantage to 4-1 in the fifth thanks to DiChiara's eighth home run of the season. The senior slugger hit a 3-1 fastball 425 feet off the batter's eye in center field.
"Coming into the at-bat, I knew they were going to throw me offspeed to begin with since it was a curveball and slider guy on the mound," DiChiara said. "The count got to 3-1, and I was just selling out for fastball. He laid me one right down the middle, and I put a good swing on it."
Auburn loaded the bases with one out in the top of the seventh but couldn't add an insurance run as back-to-back strikeouts ended the threat.
LSU started the next frame with a double and cut its deficit to two on a ball up the middle that took a big bounce over Moore's glove. A single to left made it a 4-3 game, but Burkhalter entered in relief and was able to keep it there with a strikeout and popout.
"Right when I got out of the inning, I was walking into the dugout and telling the guys to give me some insurance, and sure enough they came through," Burkhalter said. "That allows me to open up the zone and pitch more carefree to go right after hitters."
Auburn answered and got both runs back to make it 6-3 in the top of the eighth. Nate LaRue was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame and Blake Rambusch drew a two-out walk to keep the inning alive. Howell and DiChiara both came through with two-out, two-strike RBI singles off hard-throwing reliever Eric Reyzelman.
The home Tigers made it a two-run game on a solo home run from Tre' Morgan in the bottom of the eighth, but Burkhalter buckled down to retire the next four batters he faced to end the game.
"The game got shortened enough for Burkhalter and (Carson) Skipper to be able to finish it because of the work Joseph Gonzalez did," Thompson said. "His stuff was set. We got more extension out of a starter and were able to get out of here with a win.
"We have a chance to be a better ballclub if Joseph Gonzalez is one of those starters and can manipulate a bat like that," Thompson added.
Auburn remains on the road with a matchup against UAB at Region Field Tuesday night in Birmingham, Ala.