AUBURN, Ala. – A pair of five-run LSU innings were too much for Auburn's baseball team to overcome in an 11-3 loss Friday night at Plainsman Park.
Once again, despite the loss, Auburn (28-27, 10-19 SEC) remains alive for the final berth in next week's SEC Tournament with Tennessee and Georgia both falling for the second-straight night. A win Saturday, coupled with a loss by either the Vols or Bulldogs, would send Auburn to Hoover as the 11th or 12th seed. A loss would eliminate Auburn from postseason contention. Meanwhile, LSU (39-14-1, 16-11-1 SEC) would earn a first-round bye with a win; a loss means the two teams would likely rematch Tuesday night in Hoover.
"Win the game tomorrow and that means both teams (Tennessee and Georgia) have to win," Auburn head coach Sunny Golloway said. "That's a 50-50 proposition. Going into this weekend, if you told us we had to win one game to give us a 50-50 proposition, we would have taken it."
LSU ace right-hander Aaron Nola (9-1) was as advertised, holding Auburn to a run on five hits over seven full innings while striking out nine. Auburn managed to get a pair of runs off the LSU bullpen, but an 11-run deficit was too much to overcome.
Auburn had nine hits on the night with Damon Haecker, Blake Austin and Jordan Ebert contributing three apiece. Austin, Ebert and Damek Tomscha each drove in a run.
Senior Michael O'Neal (3-6) held LSU mostly in check through the first three innings but ran into trouble in the fourth inning, where a leadoff home run led to a five-run rally for the visitors. O'Neal gave up six runs – five earned – on six hits while walking and striking out two apiece. Junior Jacob Milliman provided 4.1 innings of shutout relief in his longest outing as a Tiger, holding LSU to three hits while striking out four.
"Michael mixed really well for three innings," Golloway said. "I thought he did a good job keeping them off-balance. When the home run left the yard, it changed him a little bit. We tried to get him out of there and salvage the thing … (but) it kind of ran away from there in back-to-back innings."
LSU, which totaled five doubles on the night, got two in the second inning to take a 1-0 lead. Then, in the fourth, a leadoff homer by Sean McMullen sparked a five-run rally that saw LSU take a 6-0 lead. Five more LSU runs came across in the fifth to push the advantage to 11-0.
Auburn put together a pair of hits and a walk to load the bases for the first time in the seventh inning, then an RBI groundout by Ebert brought home Haecker for the Tigers' first run.
Two more runs scored in the eighth. The first came Dan Glevenyak singled, Anfernee Grier doubled, Haecker drew a walk and Tomscha lifted a sacrifice fly to right field, allowing Glevenyak to score and make it 11-2. Austin drove in a third run with an RBI single to score Grier.
Conner Hale led LSU with a 3-for-4 night, driving in two runs and scoring three times. Tyler Moore and Jake Fraley each had two hits.
Senior Dillon Ortman is tentatively slated to be the Auburn starter in Saturday's regular-season finale, according to Golloway. He pitched two innings in Thursday's game. He will face LSU's Kyle Bouman (3-2, 2.51).
"Ortman came to me and said he wants the ball and wants to start," Golloway said. "We definitely didn't plan to start him two of three games, but (that's) the way it has worked out. … Right now Dillon wants the ball, but I want to make a really smart decision on his behalf."
Auburn's nine seniors will be honored prior to Saturday's regular-season finale. Blake Austin, Dan Glevenyak, Ryan Tella, Jay Wade, Michael O'Neal, Terrance Dedrick, Damek Tomscha, Dillon Ortman and Reid Carter will be playing their final game at Plainsman Park. The Senior Day ceremony will begin at 12:40 p.m.
First pitch is set for 1 p.m., and the game will be televised by SportSouth with Dave Neal and Larry Conley on the call.