Tigers heat up on a cold day

AUBURN – On an icy day at Plainsman Park, Auburn’s baseball team got back to winning. The Tigers scored six runs in the eighth inning to break a two-game losing streak with a 14-7 victory over Eastern Illinois.

Jackson Burgreen hits his first career home run/Lauren Barnard photo

The Tigers lost an 11-10 gut-wrencher Friday night when Eastern Illinois scored six runs in the top of the ninth.

Cullen Wacker went 4-for-5 with a double and a triple and drove in four runs and freshman Jackson Burgreen hit his first career home run as the Tigers improved to 7-3 on the season. Eastern Illinois fell to 3-6.

“I had a good BP before the game and I came out and was able to execute swings on good pitches,” Wacker said. “I was able to handle pitches in the zone.”

Wacker said the win was a big one for the Tigers.

“It’s always big to come back after a loss,” he said. “Being able to put together hit after hit after hit, stringing them together, that was a big part of the offense today.”

Playing in 30 degree temperatures with occasional snow flurries, Auburn trailed 1-0 following an unearned run in the first, then had to fight off Eastern Illinois as it narrowed the gap to a single run after Auburn built a seven-run lead after the fourth.

“The mindset of this team was that we needed to continue to find ways to score and continue to find ways to put teams away,” Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. “Those are tough elements to play in. You look at the errors and the walks, our guys did a good job.”

Auburn starter Michael O’Neal (3-0) earned the win, allowing four runs (two earned) on three hits and two walks in five innings while reliever Conner Kendrick allowed just one hit and a walk while striking out four over the final three innings to earn his second save of the season.

Clinging to the one-run lead heading to the bottom of the eighth, Auburn sent 12 men to plate in the inning and capitalized on two hits, four walks, two errors, a wild pitch and a hit batter to score six times in the inning and put the game away.

Eastern Illinois starter Joe Greenfield (1-1) took the loss as he allowed eight runs (four earned) on 10 hits and two walks in five innings.

The two teams combined to commit seven errors and a total of nine unearned runs were scored between the two teams while the two pitching staffs issued a combined 13 walks.

Auburn’s offense pounded out 13 hits a day after collecting a season-high 14. Jackson Burgreen had two of those hits, including a solo home run down the line in right in the fourth inning that gave Auburn a 6-1 lead at the time.

Auburn will go for the series victory at 1pm on Sunday. Getting the starting nod on the mound will be sophomore RHP Rocky McCord (0-0, 9.53 ERA) while Eastern Illinois will start RHP Andrew Grahn (0-0, 6.23 ERA).

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