JACKSONVILLE, Ala. - On the strength of a five-run fifth inning, No. 19 Auburn defeated Jacksonville State, 8-4, Tuesday night at Jim Case Stadium.
The win marked Auburn's 30th of the season, becoming the third team from the Southeastern Conference to reach the plateau, including the team's seventh straight.
"This was a good win for us," head coach Butch Thompson said.
"We have a lot of confidence, and we're playing as a team," senior centerfielder Kason Howell said. "This is a great feeling heading into Knoxville, knowing we have that confidence"
Offensively, Brody Moore led the way with two hits and three RBI. Bobby Peirce matched Moore with two hits and Sonny DiChiara reached base four times, marking the 24th game this season he has reached three of more times.
"I was just trying to stay true to my approach and let the chips fall where they may from there," Moore said. "Our mindset one through nine in the lineup is to get on base and let the guy behind you handle the rest."
Mason Barnett pitched the first 3.0 innings and allowed one run with five strikeouts before Konner Copeland (2-0, 2.16) took over and ultimately earned the win, recording four outs to end the fourth and start the fifth innings.
Chase Allsup and Carson Swilling held Jacksonville State to one run on three hits with three walks and nine strikeouts in the final 4.2 frames.
"Swilling was sharp and had some momentum going the last two innings," Thomspon said.
Jacksonville State (18-20) threatened right out of the gate with a leadoff hit-by-pitch and double to two runners in scoring position with nobody out. However, Barnett struck out the next three he faced to escape the inning unscathed.
Scoreless in the bottom of the third with a runner on second, Alabama State three-hole hitter TJ Reeves his a ball to deep left center. Howell had a beat on it from the start and stuck his foot in the fence, perfectly timing his jump and hauling it in well above the fence.
"I actually worked on it during batting practice with Sonny because he's always hitting bombs and I think I got one off him," Howell said. "I realized I could stick my foot in the fence, and it just played out."
"We take for granted what Kason does," Thomspon added. "You just don't notice the plays he makes because he makes them look routine. A spectacular opportunity shows up and he makes a play on the wall like that, and you get to see what a premium defender he is.
" After Howell's incredible catch, Auburn (30-12) got on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth. Sonny DiChiara drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored on a two-out RBI single from Moore.
However, Jacksonville State answered immediately with a leadoff homer in the home half of the fourth. The Gamecocks threatened the take the lead with two on and nobody out as back-to-back walks followed the homer, but Copeland entered in relief and escaped the jam with a sacrifice, groundout and flyout.
The Tigers reclaimed the lead as three hit-by-pitches and two walks made it a 3-1 game with one out in the fifth. Bobby Peirce hit an RBI single back up the middle before Brooks Carlson scored on a wild pitch and Moore drove in another on a groundout to second to cap off the five-run frame.
The Gamecocks put the first three batters in the bottom of the fifth aboard and scratched two runs to cut the Auburn lead to 6-3.
Copeland and Allsup inherited five runners with two on and nobody out in the fourth and the bases loaded with one out in the fifth but limited the damage, only allowing one of the inherited runner to score. Allsup ultimately pitched a season-high 2.2 innings and struck out three.
After both teams went scoreless in the sixth, Auburn added to its lead with two runs on a RBI single from Moore, his third of the game, and sacrifice fly from LaRue in the seventh.
Jacksonville State got one of the runs back on a solo homer in the bottom of the seventh, but Swilling pitched the final two frames in scoreless fashion and recorded all six of his outs with strikeouts.
Auburn continues SEC play with a weekend series at No. 1 Tennessee (37-3, 17-1 SEC) starting Friday at 6 p.m. CT in Knoxville.