AUBURN, Ala. – Head coach Butch Thompson won his 200th game in an Auburn uniform as the No. 25 Tigers defeated No. 12 Vanderbilt, 5-1, in the series opener Friday night at Plainsman Park.
“It’s just been special,” Thompson said. “Every year I’ve been able to be here has been special. I was a 23-year assistant coach. This hasn’t been about me building hundreds of wins. This has been about whatever time that I’m allowed to be a steward of this program. I want to see these boys have success. I think winning a game at home against Vanderbilt on a Friday night, that one win, is bigger than the 200 plateau.”
Auburn was led by strong pitching from Hayden Mullins, Carson Skipper, and Blake Burkhalter. The trio held Vanderbilt to one run on two hits with 15 strikeouts in the contest. The 15 strikeouts were the most an SEC game since May 4, 2018.
Offensively, the Tigers were powered by home runs from Cole Foster and Brooks Carlson, accounting for four of the Tigers five runs in the contest. Seven of the nine Auburn starters recorded a hit.
“It was just a solid game tonight,” Thompson said. “Almost every phase of the game was good. We were led by our pitching staff, and we got a couple of big swings off.”
Mullins got the start for Auburn and dominated early. The southpaw struck out six of the first nine batters he faced and ultimately worked 4.1 scoreless innings with one hit, six walks, and a career-high nine strikeouts.
Auburn (21-9, 6-4 SEC) captured an early on Foster’s solo home run in the second inning. The long traveled 405 feet and was the sophomore second baseman’s fourth of the year.
After singles from Blake Rambusch and Sonny DiChiara to start the third, Carlson extended the lead with a three-run blast over the left-center wall. The homer was the graduate transfer’s second of the year and left the yard at 107 miles per hour, traveling 429 feet.
“Going over the scouting report of the starting pitcher, he had a pretty efficient fastball,” Carlson said. “When that happens, you have to stay on top of the ball and stay through it. I was just trying to hit the ball hard and get the at-bat to Brody (Moore).”
Vanderbilt (21-8, 4-6 SEC) loaded the bases with one out in the fifth inning, bringing Skipper on in relief. The senior lefty only needed one pitch to get Auburn out of the jam unharmed after forcing a double play. Skipper (3-0, 3.25) allowed one run on one hit with two strikeouts in 2.2 innings.
“It was one of those nights where I was feeling good,” Skipper said. “My only job as a reliver is to get the first guy out. I was able to put my fastball where I wanted to tonight and throw the slider when I wanted to.”
“That was about as sharp as I have seen Carson Skipper,” Thompson added. “I thought he was awesome.”
Auburn added an insurance run in the eighth inning after Bobby Pierce drove a ball into the right-center gap for an RBI triple that scored Moore. Pierce’s RBI gave Auburn a 5-1 advantage.
Burkhalter entered in the eighth inning and worked the final two innings in scoreless fashion to secure the Auburn win. The junior retired six of the seven batters he faced and racked up four strikeouts to earn his seventh save of the season.
Auburn and Vanderbilt will turn around for game two of the series tomorrow at 4 p.m. CT.