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Auburn, Alabama

Auburn run rules No. 1 LSU to clinch series

294 days ago
Auburn Athletics
Photo: Auburn Athletics

AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn became the first team to defeat No. 1 LSU in a series this season by run-ruling the top-ranked Tigers 12-2 in eight innings Sunday afternoon at Plainsman Park.

After holding LSU to three runs Friday, Auburn held the visiting Tigers to a season-low two runs in the series finale and a season low 11 runs in the three-game series.

"I thought all three games, even our loss, our processes were good," head coach Butch Thompson said. "We absolutely showed up in a big way today."

Leading 11-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Cooper McMurray laced a ball down the first base line to score Bobby Peirce from second base and send his teammates pouring out of the dugout to celebrate with him at first base.

"I'm standing right there with them so I know when they're connected, and it's nice that we hooked it up," Thompson added. "We've done an amazing job at figuring out who we are, getting marginally better in a couple spots and staying together. That's what we have to do moving forward."

Starting pitcher Christian Herberholz and freshman lefty Drew Nelson combined to hold the nation's second-highest scoring offense to two runs, including just one earned, on six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.

"I felt great," Herberholz said of his outing. "Strike one is huge. I think if you get strike one you can do just about anything. Strike one is the biggest strike for sure."

Herberholz (1-3) matched a season-high with 5.0 innings pitched and earned his first win in an Auburn uniform. Nelson retired the last nine batters he faced and earned his first career save in his 3.0 innings of work.

"Just trust your stuff and let your defense work behind you," Herberholz added. "It was a good feeling, being able to trust every pitch you have and trust your defense behind you. I just try to give it my all and give our team the best chance to win."

Senior captain Kason Howell delivered a pair of two-out, two-run triples to distance the ballgame in the middle innings and matched a career-high with five RBI in the game. It marked Howell's third game with four or more RBI in the last 11 contests.

"Yeah, it was an unbelievable weekend," Howell said. "Our fans were unbelievable, me and my close friend graduating, it's been a great weekend.

"This team has always fought," Howell added. "That's been a staple of our program ever since Coach Thompson took over. We're fighters. Now we're just doing it with a little bit of precision and skill that we've acquired. We're just continuing to fight and give everything we have."

LSU (37-10, 16-7 SEC) jumped out to an early lead with a solo home run on the third pitch of the game. However, Auburn (27-19-1, 11-13 SEC) responded in a big way as the first eight batters reached and six of them came in to score. After three straight walks to begin the bottom of the first, Ike Irish got the scoring started with a RBI single to right. Three straight bases-loaded walks to Bryson Ware, McMurray and Howell gave Auburn the lead, and a two-RBI single from Caden Green made it 6-1.

The home Tigers went back to work in their next at-bat as Peirce hit a leadoff single and came in to score three batters later on a RBI single from McMurray, his second RBI of the game.

After the leadoff home run, Herberholz worked around doubles in the first and second innings, a single in the third, and a walk in the fourth to keep the damage at a minimum.

Taking advantage of an extended inning due to a pair of fielding errors from LSU, Auburn added to its lead on the first two-RBI triple from Howell to make it a 9-1 game in the bottom of the fourth.

LSU got back on the scoreboard with a run on a single from Tommy White after a passed ball in the top of the fifth, but Herberholz buckled down and stranded a pair to get through five complete.

Nelson entered the relief of Herberholz in the sixth and retired nine straight LSU hitters after allowing a leadoff single on a good piece of hitting. Nelson's 3.0 innings of work marked his longest outing since his 7.0-inning complete game vs. North Alabama on Mar. 28.

Leading 9-2, Howell delivered his second two-out, two-RBI triple in as many at-bats to nearly the same spot in left center field to extend the lead to 11-2 in the bottom of the sixth.

With Nelson cruising on the mound, Peirce drew a leadoff hit-by-pitch in the eighth and moved to second on a ground ball. LSU intentionally walked Ware, and McMurray made them pay with his aforementioned walk-off to put the 10-run rule into effect.

Howell and McMurray combined to go 5-for-8 with eight RBI in the game. The Tigers begin a four-game week on the road with a midweek contest vs. Samford at Hoover Met on Tuesday at 6 p.m. CT.