Auburn advances in SEC tourney
Auburn bought itself at least two more games in the SEC baseball tournament.
The No. 8-seed Tigers knocked off No. 9-seed Tennessee Volunteers in the single-elimination round of the conference tournament 5-3. Auburn's victory advanced the Tigers to the double-elimination portion of the tournament where it will play top-seed Vanderbilt on Wednesday.
Auburn's win against Tennessee, per assistant coach Gabe Gross, was a microcosm for the whole season. It wasn't flawless, but the Tigers found a way.
"It's really been the mindset of the last half of this season, going through some of the injuries. Some guys haven't been having the years they wish they would've had. And they just find a way to win," Gross said on the Auburn Radio Network after the win. "Don't ever quit through nine innings no matter what the score is. That's what we've done."
In two very different ways, Judd Ward changed the game at the plate.
Ward laid down a sacrifice bunt in the fifth inning on a safety squeeze. Tennessee's first baseman looked home first, but eventually turned to first where no one covered the base. Ward legged out the single that gave Auburn a 3-2 lead at the time.
It wasn't the final time Ward gave the Tigers an advantage at the plate.
In the bottom of the seventh, with one runner on, Ward launched a home run over the right-field fence. It gave Auburn the 5-3 lead it wouldn't relinquish.
"Judd Ward started off with a couple not-very-good at-bats and then gets the safety squeeze down and then, of course, the big home run," Gross said. "It was just a gut-it-out performance."
Ward wasn't the only offensive standout for Auburn. Edouard Julien, who entered the game 0 for his last 21, went 2-for-4 with a two-RBI double.
The pitching-by-committee performance was just as vital.
Admittedly, starter Elliot Anderson "didn't have his best stuff," per Gross. But he battled through first-inning threats to only allow one run. When he found trouble again, Bailey Horn — after a one-batter holdover from Will Morrison — came in for a long-relief appearance and stole the show.
Horn struck out six in four innings. He only allowed one earned run on one hit.
"I came in when it was a close game, 2-1 with runners in scoring position. Elliot and Will did a great job keeping us in the ball game," Horn said. "I knew I had to come in and do the same and give our hitters a chance to win the game for us."