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Late homers by Hall, Maners lead No. 13 Auburn past Austin Peay in series opener

Justin Hokansonby:Justin Hokanson03/08/24


Courtesy of Auburn Athletics

AUBURN, Ala. – Mason Maners hit a walk-off homer to start the bottom of the ninth inning and lift No. 13 Auburn to a 7-6 win in the series opener against Austin Peay Friday afternoon at Plainsman Park.

“It came down to some resilience by our guys,” head coach Butch Thompson said. “Big swings by (Christian) Hall and Maners right there were huge.

“Every bit of this game looked like what we’re going to see for the next 10 weekends,” Thompson added. “That’s what we advertised and that’s absolutely what we saw. These are the kinds of games, that good, tight game, that you learn more and grow more by being a part of. Any time you find a way to get that last big swing and win one like this, hopefully that’s great for development.”

With the count 2-2, Maners sat back on a slider offered from Austin Peay reliever Tyler Hampu (1-1) and deposited it on top of the Josh Donaldson Hitting Lab in right field, sending his teammates pouring out of the dugout and bullpen to mob him at home plate.

“Man, this one feels really good,” Maners said. “Praise the lord, this team is so good. We’re playing against a really good ballclub. We knew we were going to be in for a fight, and this team is so resilient. I had full faith we were going to pull that one out.

“I was hunting fastball, trying to hit something low and away and trying to find a way on base,” Maners said of his approach in the ninth. “I was just going to do whatever it took to try to get on first base. I hit it and it felt really good, but when I saw the right fielder stop running I figured this one got out.”

The walk-off homer was Auburn’s first since Kason Howell did so in the bottom of the ninth inning against Yale on Feb. 26, 2022.

Trailing 6-5 the inning prior, Christian Hall got a full-count fastball from Hampu and hit it to a similar spot on top of the hitting facility to tie the game at six, giving Auburn’s its first run since the second inning.

“Honestly, I knew the guy was going to throw a fastball,” Hall said. “I was in my two-strike approach and the big thing that Coach Gross teaches us is just don’t be late. Be on time for the fastball and keep it short and simple. I knew I was going to get one and I didn’t miss it.”

After Austin Peay took the lead on a one-out single in the top of the eighth inning, Tanner Bauman (2-0) entered in relief and held the Governors in check in the final 1.1 frames. The senior lefty entered in the eighth with runners on the corners and two outs and induced an inning-ending ground ball. 

“Tanner (Bauman) came in and threw a pitch on Wednesday, and it’s less than 48 hours later with this early start where he’s out there trying to do it again. He threw three pitches today to get us out of an inning and then was able to throw a clean ninth to get us in here and have a chance to do that.”

Auburn (11-2) jumped out to a 5-0 lead with a run in the first and four more in the second.  Cooper Weiss started the game with a two-strike single to right, moved around the bases on a balk and ground ball and scored on an infield single from Cooper McMurray. An inning later, the Tigers were the beneficiaries of a bases-loaded walk and hit-by-pitch before McMurray came back around and laced a two-RBI single to right center to make it 5-0.

Auburn starter Chase Allsup retired the first seven batters he faced with three straight strikeouts, but Austin Peay (10-3) strung together three straight singles and scored a pair of runs in the top of the third to cut the lead to three.

Two more runs on a two-out single in the fifth made it a one-run game, and Austin Peay tied it 5-5 on a solo homer in the seventh. Similar to Allsup, John Armstrong entered in relief and retired the first five he faced before the solo homer tied it.

The Governors took their first lead on a one-out single in the eighth, but Bauman entered and ultimately set the stage for the late-game heroics.

Maners turned in multiple hits for the fourth time in the last five games, including his third straight, and McMurray matched him with two hits and three RBI.

Game two in the series between the Tigers and Governors is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. CT.

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