Zach-Blatt pitched 6 1/3 strong innings in his first college start and Auburn rode a six-run sixth inning to an 8-7 victory over No. 21 LSU at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge on Friday night.
Tony Caldwell had a two-run double in Auburn's six-run sixth
Auburn won its fourth straight. LSU lost its fifth straight, fourth straight in the Southeastern Conference.
Auburn improved to 19-14 overall and 6-7 in the SEC, one game out of second place in the West. LSU plunged to 22-13 and 3-10.
Auburn coach John Pawlowski’s decision to give Blatt, who had 43 career relief appearances, his first college start after Andrew Morris struggled the previous two Friday nights paid off.
“It starts with the guy on the mound,” Pawlowski said. “What can you say about Zach Blatt? It was an outstanding effort. He got us deep into the game and made some big pitches.”
Blatt was charged with five runs, four of them earned. He left the game with a 7-3 lead in the seventh, but reliever Dillon Ortman issued two bases-loaded walks.
Wes Gilmer’s two-out, run-scoring single on an 0-2 count in the top of the ninth proved to be the difference. After an error by second baseman Justin Hargett, LSU scored in the bottom of the ninth and had the tying run on first. Right fielder Justin Fradejas made a diving catch to end it.
In the pivotal sixth inning, the Tigers took advantage of three hits and three walks. Justin Fradejas led off the inning with a double. Tony Caldwell had a two-run double and pinch-hitter Cullen Wacker had a two-run single. Kevin Patterson walked in a run and scored on Bobby Andrews’ squeeze bunt.
“We just had to find a way to get things going and get some momentum,” Pawlowski said. “We got some walks and got some big hits. Guys stepped up in clutch situations. You don’t have many opportunities against good teams or good pitchers but when you do, you certainly have to take advantage of it.”
Blatt said he felt more comfortable as the game wore on.
“The first couple of innings I did not feel good,” Blatt said. “I couldn’t adjust to the mound and I had a hard time locating my fastball. My breaking ball wasn’t working the way I wanted it to work. By the third inning, my arm slot got a little lower and things started clicking.”
Blatt gave up five hits, struck out four and walked four in evening his record at 2-2. Ethan Wallen came on with one out in the ninth, gave up a base hit, then retired the final two hitters for his fifth save, first in the SEC.
LSU starter Kurt McClune lasted five innings, giving up five runs on four hits. He walked three as his record fell to 5-2. He entered the game with a 1.80 ERA.
The Tigers will try to win the series at 6:30 tonight.