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A Bitter Pill to Swallow

Auburn Baseball Drops Series to #18 Boston College

Feb 20, 2021; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers infielder Rankin Woley (4) hits the ball during the game between Auburn and Presbyterian at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jacob Taylor/AU Athletics
Feb 20, 2021; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers infielder Rankin Woley (4) hits the ball during the game between Auburn and Presbyterian at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jacob Taylor/AU Athletics

Auburn, ranked number 22, learned partway through the week that their scheduled series against Xavier would not be played due to COVID-19 issues for Xavier.  At the same time, number 18 Boston College learned their weekend series against Wake Forest would be postponed due to COVID issues.  So the two programs put together a top 25 series at Plainsman Park in place of their previously scheduled series.  This weekend marked the first time since 2011 that a ranked non-conference opponent visited Plainsman Park.  Unfortunately for the home fans, it was the visiting team that got in the final laugh in the series.  Boston College got off to a good start with an 8-2 win under the lights on Friday night.  Mason Pelio, the Eagles ace pitcher, worked his way around Auburn baserunners for 5.2 innings.  Luke Gold and Sal Frelick both hit two homers apiece and combined to drive in five runs to lead the Eagles offense.  However, a short-handed Auburn (7-4) squad (who played without two of their best pitchers in Cody Greenhill and Jack Owen as well as outfielder Judd Ward) seemed to flip a switch before the Saturday afternoon game as Auburn pounded the Eagles 16-1 in game two.  Auburn outhit Boston College 11-3 and the game was never in doubt after Cam Hill highlighted a five run first with a grand slam.  Auburn seemed to be in complete control of the rubber match of the series entering the ninth inning of game three leading 9-1.  However, the Eagles rallied in the top of the ninth against Cam Hill and Seb Thomas scoring eight times with two outs in the ninth inning to tie the game at nine.  The final three runs of the inning came off the bat of Sal Frelick when he launched a game-tying three run homer to right.  Boston College then got a two run home run from Luke Gold off of Peyton Glavine in the top of the tenth inning, and Auburn was unable to solve lefty Joey Walsh in the bottom of the inning allowing Boston College to win the series in the wildest of fashions.  As head coach Butch Thompson put it, "We [Auburn] snatched defeat from the jaws of victory."  Gold and Frelick were a thorn in the side of Auburn pitching all weekend as the two combined to hit six home runs.  Mason Barnett and Trace Bright both turned in strong starts for the Tigers over the final two games of the weekend series.  The two combined to pitch 10.1 innings while only allowing two runs and only one earned run.  Auburn went a 19 inning stretch (the final two innings of game one, all of game two, and the first eight innings of game three) only allowing two runs on six hits, but the disastrous ninth inning on Sunday doomed Auburn's chance to grab a quality series win.  Despite outscoring the Eagles 27-20 on the weekend, the Tigers still dropped the series.  Tyler Miller (six hits, six RBIs, one home run), Rankin Woley (five hits, seven runs, one home run), Cam Hill (seven RBIs, two home runs), and Ryan Bliss (four hits, three RBIs) led the Tigers on offense for the weekend.  After starting the season 5-0, Auburn has now gone 2-4 the last two weekends against much stiffer competition.  When asked postgame about what Auburn needs to improve before the start of SEC play, Thompson pointed to the pitching as what is currently holding the squad back.  Of course, to this point in the season the Tigers have been without one of their best pitchers for three straight weeks in Owen.  Auburn travels to Birmingham on Tuesday to take on UAB, before returning to Plainsman Park to host Little Rock for a three game series.

Friday:

Boston College 8 Auburn 2

In game one, the Eagles used the long ball to build an early lead, and the Auburn offense could never get back into the game.  Luke Gold and Sal Frelick both hit two homers and combined to drive in five of the Eagles eight runs.  While Gold and Frelick provided the offensive firepower, Mason Pelio dominated on the mound for Boston College.  Pelio scattered four hits across 5.2 innings.  Richard Fitts (0-2 7.53 era) was tagged with the loss after lasting five innings and allowing five runs which were all earned.  Rankin Woley and Tyler Miller each collected two hits and scored a run apiece.  Kason Howell and Bryson Ware each drove in one of Auburn's runs.

Gold got the scoring started with a two run homer to left field in the top of the second inning.  Frelick hit a solo homer in the third and then stretched the lead to four with another solo homer to right field in the fifth.  Boston College added another run in the fifth after back-to-back doubles.  Both of the runs scored by the Eagles in the fifth came with two outs in the inning.  Gold matched Frelick with his second homer in the sixth against Brooks Fuller to make it 6-0.  Boston College added two more runs in the seventh without recording a hit.  Instead, the Eagles combined a walk, a Rankin Woley error, a fielder's choice, and a couple of RBI groundouts to plate their runs.  Auburn was finally able to break the goose egg on the scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth with a pair of runs.  Miller led off with a single, and then a Woley double put two runners in scoring position.  Ware drove Miller home with a sacrifice fly.  Woley scored later in the inning on a Kason Howell single.  Seb Thomas followed Fitts and Fuller to the mound and threw 2.1 scoreless innings while striking out four batters.

Auburn had scoring opportunities throughout the game but left 11 runners on base.  The Tigers had at least one base runner in every inning except the seventh.  In fact, in the second through fifth innings the Tigers put their leadoff runner on base but was unable to bring any of those baserunners home.  The Eagles outhit the Tigers 9-7.  Seven of Boston College's nine hits were extra base hits (four homers and three doubles).  Woley's eighth inning double was the only extra base hit for the Tigers.  Boston College gave Auburn several free baserunners on the evening with four walks issued and three errors in the field.  The Auburn pitching trio of Fitts, Fuller, and Thomas combined to strikeout nine batters while only issuing three free passes to the Eagles.

Saturday:

Auburn 16 Boston College 1

Auburn jumped on Boston College early and often in game two to even the series up.  Freshman Cam Hill's grand slam highlighted a five run first inning.  Auburn plated three runs in both the third and fourth innings before adding four more runs in the fifth to go up 15-0.  Boston College managed their lone run in the sixth.  Rankin Woley put an exclamation point on the scoring with a solo home run to left center in the bottom of the seventh.  In all, Auburn knocked out 11 hits of which four were home runs.  Mason Barnett (1-0 0.84 era) earned the win with 5.1 dominant innings.  Barnett scattered two hits and two walks while allowing one unearned run.  Boston College starter Emmet Sheehan was tagged with the loss after allowing eight runs in two plus innings of work.  Four Tigers had multiple hits on the day highlighted by Tyler Miller's three hit effort.  Miller also collected six RBIs, three runs, and a homer on the afternoon.

Auburn did not waste any time in getting the scoring started in the bottom of the first.  Auburn drew three straight two out walks to load the bases.  Bryson Ware then singled home a run.  Hill followed with his grand slam to clear the bases and put Auburn up 5-0.  The Eagles pitcher managed to get a goose egg on the scoreboard in the second, but Auburn scored in three straight innings after that.  In the third, Auburn once again got their scoring opportunity thanks to free passes from the Boston College pitching staff.  A walk, hit by pitch, and wild pitch put two runners in scoring position for Miller who plated both with a single up the middle.  Miller scored later in the inning on a Brody Moore RBI groundout.  In the fourth, Steven Williams hit the big blow with a one out two run homer.  Miller brought home Woley, who had doubled, with a single to plate the third run of the inning.  Josh Ward led off the fifth inning by reaching first after an Eagles' error.  Ryan Bliss brought Hall home later in the inning with an RBI single, and then Tyler Miller launched a three run homer to right field.  Boston College managed their lone run in the top of the sixth with a pair of walks and a passed ball.  Woley wrapped up the scoring with his solo home run in the seventh.

Barnett was followed to the mound by Carson Swilling and Hayden Mullins.  The three combined on a three hitter, while issuing four walks and striking out eight batters.  Ware, Bliss, and Woley all collected two hits on the day.  Seven players scored a run for Auburn highlighted by Woley's five runs. 

Sunday:

Boston College 11 Auburn 9 (10 innings)

It seemed Auburn had wrapped up the series win, but Boston College scored eight runs with two outs in the ninth to send the game to extra innings.  The Eagles then plated two more runs in the tenth on a two run home run by Luke Gold, and Joey Walsh shut the door on the Tigers in the bottom of the inning to allow Boston College to win in a huge comeback.  The trio of starter Trace Bright (2-0 1.12 era), Carson Skipper (who left after throwing two pitches to his fourth batter faced due to a back injury), and Blake Burkhalter shut down the potent Eagles offense for the first eight innings.  The three only allowed one run to score on three hits, while striking out seven batters.  However, Cam Hill and Seb Thomas were unable to keep the bats quiet in the ninth.  Peyton Glavine took the loss after allowing Gold's two run home run in the tenth.  Hill did have a productive day at the plate reaching base three times while also driving home three runs.  Ryan Bliss (two) and Brody Moore (three) had multi-hit days at the plate as well.

The Eagles struck first in the top half of the second inning combining a walk and a double to get on the board.  Auburn answered right back in the bottom of the inning with a two run homer from Hill.  Auburn then used five singles, a walk, and a double to plate five runs in the fourth inning.  Moore delivered the biggest blow in the inning with a two run single to right.  Auburn added a single run in the sixth and seventh innings.  Bliss brought home the run in the sixth with an RBI single, while Hill plated the run in the seventh with a single.  Starting with the third inning until the start of the ninth, Auburn pitchers retired 18 of the 21 batters they faced.  The only three baserunners for the Eagles in that six inning stretch came via a bunt single, a Bliss error, and a walk.  For as good as the Tigers arms had been for eight innings, they fell apart in the ninth.  Frelick led off the inning with a single, before Hill (who both pitched and hit for the Tigers on Sunday) settled in to retire two of the next three batters to get to two outs with runners on first and second.  However, the freshman then allowed back-to-back singles and then hit a batter to allow two runs to score and leave the bases loaded for Seb Thomas.  Thomas only needed to get one out to save the game, but walked home a run and then allowed a two run double and a three run home run.  The homer came off the bat of Sal Frelick who had started the rally with his leadoff single.  Luke Gold then poked his two run homer to left in the tenth off Glavine to give Boston College the win.

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