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The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
Auburn, Alabama

Gonzalez goes the distance in series-clinching finale

296 days ago
Auburn Athletics
Photo: Auburn Athletics

AUBURN, Ala. - Junior right-hander Joseph Gonzalez turned in a complete-game as No. 25 Auburn defeated No. 12 Vanderbilt, 8-2, to clinch the Tigers third straight SEC series Sunday afternoon at Plainsman Park.

"Every series is important, but to grab one like this is meaningful," head coach Butch Thompson said. "We needed somebody to step up, and it was done by one guy who only got stronger at the end."

"We've been in this 1-1 position the last three weekends in a row and have been able to come out with wins and just compete hard," Thompson added.

It marks the first time Auburn has won three straight SEC series since 2017.

Gonzalez (4-0, 1.95) made his second straight start in the deciding game of an SEC series and turned in the first complete-game in conference play by an Auburn pitcher since Casey Mize in 2018.

"When I'm pitching, I just like to stay focused and do my job," Gonzalez said. "I knew this game was mine around the sixth inning. My arm felt good. I think Sunday starts are exciting especially when the series is 1-1. I like the pressure."

Gonzalez allowed two runs, one earned, on eight hits with no walks and matched a season and career high with eight strikeouts. He needed 104 pitches to get through nine innings of work.

"Joseph really put the ball into play for our infielders, and he kept them off balance with that backdoor slider," Thompson added.

Sonny DiChiara led the way from the plate, going 3-for-5 with two homers, a double and a season-high five RBI. A day after recording his 50th career home run, the game marked DiChiara's ninth multi-home run game of his career and the first by an Auburn player this season.

"The first homer I hit, he just left a fastball over the middle, and I was able to hit it out to center," DiChiara said. "The second one, I got a cutter and was able to get it over the green monster."

Seven of the nine Auburn starters recorded a hit with Blake Rambusch, DiChiara, Brody Moore and Bobby Peirce recording multiple hits. Peirce's 3-for-3 day marked a career high in hits for the redshirt junior, while Rambusch collected multiple hits for the 17th time this year.

Auburn (22-10, 7-5 SEC) wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, striking for seven runs and taking a five-run lead in the first three innings.

The scoring began in the first with DiChiara's RBI double to left-center that scored Kason Howell. Brooks Carlson moved DiChiara to third on a single to center field before Moore delivered an RBI single up the middle to give Auburn an early 2-0 lead.

After Vanderbilt (22-9, 5-7 SEC) pushed an unearned run across in the top of the second, the Tigers added three more runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Rambusch reached on a fielder's choice and Howell walked before DiChiara's three-run home run. The blast increased the Auburn advantage to 5-1.

The Commodores answered the big inning by scratching another run across in the third, but the Tigers were able to respond right back with two more runs in the next at-bat. After Cole Foster walked and Peirce singled to begin the bottom half of the frame, Auburn added a run on an errant throw that allowed Peirce to score from first. Rambusch then delivered an RBI double down the right field line to increase the lead to 7-2.

DiChiara launched his second home run of the day and his third of the series in the sixth inning. The solo shot was the senior slugger's 11th of the year and moved Auburn's lead to six, which proved to be final.

The six-run cushion was more than enough for Gonzalez as he faced the minimum in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings and didn't allow more than two baserunners at one time until a two-out single in the ninth.

"He showed us he was going to be dominant, and we were going to have to be there for him," DiChiara said of Gonzalez. "We showed up for him and he showed up for us, throwing a complete game. It was awesome."

Auburn is back at Plainsman Park on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. for an in-state matchup against Samford.