No. 15 Auburn secures the series with 6-1 win over Eastern Kentucky

Justin Hokansonby:Justin Hokanson02/17/24


AUBURN -– Led by the bat of Bobby Peirce and the return to the mound of Joseph Gonzalez, No. 15 Auburn defeated Eastern Kentucky 6-1 to secure the series Saturday at Plainsman Park.

Peirce collected a pair of hits, including a two-RBI triple that got the offense going and a solo homer, and matched a career high with three RBI.

“Two outs, two strikes and (Bobby) hit that triple to get us going,” head coach Butch Thompson said. “We really needed that. I hope that this is an offense that we can keep talking about a different guy every night. I hope that’s how we’re built.”

“There’s always those first-game jitters,” Peirce said. “We got a win yesterday, but today felt like we played the game a little better. That was a good win.”

With Peirce leading the way offensively, Auburn’s pitching staff and Gonzalez’s return 364 days after his last start played a big part in the series-clinching win. Gonzalez (1-0, 0.00) allowed just one unearned run on two hits in 5.0 innings to earn the victory.

“I didn’t feel anything crazy different,” Gonzalez said. “It’s been a year since the last time I’ve pitched in an actual game. I’m just happy to be here and be healthy.

Eastern Kentucky (0-2) threatened with two baserunners in each of the first two innings, but Gonzalez induced a pair of inning-ending double plays to keep the Colonels scoreless.

“My command was a little off at first, but it got better throughout the game,” Gonzalez added. “I just kept trusting my defense. They’re the ones making me look good.”

The Tigers (2-0) were held in check until a two-out rally led to a four-run third inning. Peirce started the scoring with a two-RBI triple off the fence in right field and, two pitches later, Cooper McMurray hit a two-run homer off the back of the visitor’s bullpen to cap off the four-run frame.

After escaping the first and innings, Gonzalez settled in on the mound and retired eight straight batters before an error extended the fifth inning and ultimately led to Eastern Kentucky’s lone run.

Sophomore southpaw Zach Crotchfelt relieved Gonzlez in the sixth and worked a 1-2-3 inning with a pair of strikeouts.

With Auburn leading 4-1, Eastern Kentucky threatened in the top of the seventh, but junior John Armstrong entered in relief of Crotchfelt with the tying run at the plate and got a strikeout before eventually getting out of the inning unscathed.

The Tigers extended their lead with a manufactured run in the bottom of the seventh. Christian Hall drew a leadoff walk and pinch-runner Sam Robertson stole second and third before scoring on a ground ball up the middle from Javon Hernandez.

Auburn’s third double play of the game erased a baserunner in the top of the eighth, and Peirce’s solo homer extended the lead to 6-1 in the bottom of the inning.

Will Cannon made his season debut in the top of the ninth and struck out three Colonels in a scoreless inning.

Chris Stanfield matched Peirce with a game-high two hits, including a triple, and has now reached seven times in the first two games of the season.

The series finale between the two teams is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Plainsman Park.

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