After being on the road for a series win versus LSU and beating UAB, the No. 25 Auburn Tigers (22-10) (7-5 SEC) would finally come back to play a home series against the No. 7 Vanderbilt Commodores. (22-9) (5-7 SEC) The Tigers would put themselves and their fanbase through a rollercoaster of emotions through the weekend, but Auburn would still come out with the series won due to fantastic days at the plate from Sonny DiChaira, and nearly perfect days at the mound from Carson Skipper and Joseph Gonzalez.
The first game of the series was played on April 8th, and thanks to a combination of pitching from Hayden Mullins and Carson Skipper, and great days at the plate from Cole Foster, and Brooks Carlson, it became a day that the Tigers put on a clinic for defensive, and powerful baseball, as Auburn won 5-1.
Auburn started their road to victory in the second inning as Cole Foster hit a solo home run to right center, that put the Tigers ahead. Brooks Carlson decided to expand on the lead with a three-run homerun in the third inning that gave the Tigers a four-run lead that was only chipped away at by a seventh inning Sacrifice fly hit by Enrique Bradford Jr, which was quickly rectified by a Bobby Peirce Triple in the bottom of the eighth that kept the Tigers at a four-run lead.
Pitching was the thing that was wonderful for the Tigers, Hayden Mullins got things started with four and a quarter innings of work as he contributed nine strikeouts and only let up one hit, but it would be his replacement Carson Skipper who would end up with the win through his two and three quarters of work two strikeouts and one hit with one earned run given up.
It was Head Coach Butch Thompson’s 200th win on the plains and when Carson Skipper was asked about how he felt after giving his skipper his 200th win he said “He Absolutely deserves it, hard coach great coach” “What a Guy”
When asked about how he felt about getting his 200th win, Head Coach Butch Thompson said “It’s been special” “I was a 23 year old assistant coach, this isn’t about me building 100s of wins this has been about for whatever time that I’m allowed to be a steward of this program I want to see these boys have success.”
Ending the game with a strikeout, Blake Burkhalter got the save with two innings pitched and four strikeouts, setting up game two of the series with Auburn having the early advantage.
Auburn would not be able to ride this game one momentum as, game two started following Auburn Football’s “A-Day” on April 9th, and despite Auburn jumping out to a quick lead, Vanderbilt rode a first pitch swinging strategy, to dominate the Tigers 19-4.
To Start off the game for the Tigers, Sonny DiChiara hit his ninth home run of the year, a solo shot to center that gave Auburn their lead all the way up into the fourth inning, where Vanderbilt rode two home runs and three doubles to a 9-1 game, that Nate LaRue made 9-2 with a home run of his own in the bottom of the fourth.
Vanderbilt would continue the onslaught scoring 19 before the game ended, Vanderbilt would have 23 hits total with 14 either being a double or home run. Pitching just was not able to do anything against the Commodores as six pitchers went into the game, and all six gave up an earned run, Trace Bright was the losing pitcher with three and a quarter innings pitched with six hits and six earned runs given up.
When asked about the loss Head Coach Butch Thomson said, “if something doesn’t go right, we got to play through it and we did not.”
The loss set up a rubber match played on April 10th, that for the Tigers almost felt must win. The Tigers rode the bat of Sonny DiChiara, and a complete game from Joseph Gonzalez to a 8-2 win in front of a sold out crowd in Plainsman Park.
Auburn’s Sonny DiChiara got the game started with double that scored Kason Howell who was hit by pitch in the previous at-bat. Sonny would go on to hit his 10th and 11th home run of the season, the first one a three-run shot that hit the batter’s eye and the second a solo shot in the sixth inning that was the last nail in the coffin for Vanderbilt.
When asked about his ability to enter the zone at the plate Sonny DiChiara said “I came out yesterday and wasn’t seeing the ball to0o well, just came out today trying to put a good swing on things and things worked out.
Joseph Gonzalez was the other side of the equation, as he got the win and did everything you could ask for behind the mound. Pitching a complete game with only one earned run given up and zero walks.
It was the first game that his parents had been in attendance and when asked about how important it was for himself, Joseph said, “It was Awesome I could feel like way better, more energy” and “They make a difference in me.
When asked about the final game head coach Butch Thompson said, “That’s a big one today and I couldn’t be more proud of the pitchers stepping up.”
That game two will sure leave a black spot on the weekend, but overall Auburn has a lot to be proud of and will be looking to pick up more wins first against Samford in Plainsman Park versus Samford on April 12 at 6 P.M, and the next SEC series will be against Mississippi State starting April 14 at 7 P.M.