AUBURN -- The turnaround was completed Sunday.
One week after being swept at home by South Carolina, Auburn finished off a sweep of Tennessee with an 11-4 win in front of 2,525 at Plainsman Park.
Auburn had lost eight of its last nine SEC games going into the series and was in danger of dropping to the bottom of the conference standings. The momentum and confidence started to build after a 7-0 win at Troy Tuesday.
“It’s night and day. I don’t know how to really describe it. It’s beyond words,” said catcher Blake Austin, who was 3-of-4 with a homerun and a career-high five RBI Sunday. “Last week we where kind of down about the last three series and how we ended it with South Carolina.
“We’re a complete different team -- offensively, defensively. With pitching and everything going on right now, it’s complete night and day.”
The win, Auburn’s fourth straight, improves the Tigers to 25-19 overall and 10-11 in the SEC. The Volunteers fell to 22-22 and 7-14.
Tennessee jumped out to an early 4-1 lead but a diving catch by centerfielder Ryan Tella off a hard liner by Zach Osborne kept the Vols from increasing their lead and jumpstarted the Tigers rally.
“That sparked everyone in the dugout,” Austin said. “That kind of play ... momentum in the dugout is big. For offense, defense, pitching, the guy on the mound sees that and we’re ready to go after that play.”
Auburn scored two in the bottom of the fourth off of Austin’s blast over the Green Monster in left and added three more in the fifth on an RBI-single by Austin and a single by Jay Gonzalez to drive home two more.
The Tigers put the game away with four runs in the eighth. Zach Alvord led off the inning with a solo homerun off the scoreboard in center, his team-leading fifth of the season. A Creede Simpson single drove home one run and a double by Cullen Wacker drove in two more.
Wacker had three hits while Simpson and Gonzalez added two apiece.
Derek Varnadore, who picked up the win out of the bullpen Friday, pitched a perfect eighth and ninth to earn his first save of the season.
“He’s mowing them down right now,” Austin said.
Slade Smith (3-4) came out of the bullpen to earn the win for Auburn holding the Vols to just one hit in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
Auburn starter Trey Cochran-Gill lasted just 1.2 innings allowing three runs. Dillon Ortman threw a solid 2.1 innings allowing a run on three hits to get to Smith and Varnadore.
“Dillon Ortman, Slade Smith and Varny again -- those guys did an outstanding job and then the offense got going a little bit. It was exciting to see,” Auburn coach John Pawlowski said.
Tennessee reliever Carter Watson (3-3) was saddled with the loss allowing three runs in one inning.
Auburn will be off this week for finals and return to action Friday night at Georgia for a 3-game series.
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