Columbia, Mo.—Auburn got a pair of solo home runs from senior first baseman Garrett Cooper and starting pitcher Conner Kendrick struck out eight in eight and one/third innings to get his first SEC win as the Tigers defeated Missouri 3-1 on Friday night. With the victory Auburn improves to 25-16 overall and 7-12 in SEC play as the Tigers rode the arm of Kendrick to the win.
Allowing just one run on seven hits to improve to 3-2 on the season, Kendrick turned things over to closer Terrance Dedrick in the ninth and he got a double play to seal the win and earn his fifth save of the season.
“Conner did an outstanding job,” Auburn Coach John Pawlowski says. “He has a way to maneuver out of some trouble. He put himself into a couple of situations, but he wants to be out there. He made some really big pitches.
“Number 22 Terrance Dedrick has been pretty good for us,” he adds. “I like what he can do. I like what he brings to the table. He is a strike-thrower and has a lot of confidence in himself. I tried to let Conner go as long as he could. We turned it over to TD and got a nice ground ball double play.”
Cooper’s offense led the way for an Auburn offense on a night when it struggled to get anything going consistently. He had three hits to lead the way with Damek Tomscha and Patrick Savage adding two hits each for an offense that struck out 12 times against Missouri pitching.
Auburn didn’t waste any time getting the offense started in its first trip to face the former Big 12 Tigers on the road as Cullen Wacker singled with two outs in the first inning to get the Tigers going against Missouri starter Rob Kastryzny. Cooper followed with a single of his own to bring Patrick Savage to the plate. In the designated hitter role against the left-hander, Savage ripped a double to score Wacker and give Kendrick the lead.
The lead lasted just one inning before Missouri would tie the game up in the second on one swing of the bat. With a strong wind blowing out to left field, designated hitter Keaton Steele got a pitch to handle and lifted it into left. Making a play on the ball, Wacker was unable to grab the ball as it just flew over the wall for a solo homer.
In the third inning Missouri threatened against Kendrick as a pair of singles and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with just one out for the Tigers. That’s when the Auburn defense came to play. Known for his strong arm, catcher Blake Austin picked a runner off first base for the second out of the inning before Kendrick struck out Steele to end the threat.
Getting back to the plate in the fourth, Cooper got a pitch to drive and didn’t miss it as he drove the ball over the center field wall for his first homer of the game and fifth of the season. With Kendrick cruising on the mound and the Auburn offense struggling, Cooper doubled up with another homer in the sixth to make it 3-1 Tigers.
“The fastball was up and I just put a good swing on it,” Cooper says of the first homer. “He left the ball up and I got good barrel on it and it went out to right-center. On the second one he left a 0-2 curveball over the plate. I got a little bit fooled, but I kept my hands back and luckily got the barrel on it.”
Taking the game into the ninth inning, Kendrick allowed a leadoff single before getting a fly ball for out number one. At his limit with 120 pitches thrown, the junior gave the ball to Dedrick and he again delivered as he got a double play ball to end the game for the Tigers.
Auburn will go for the series win on Saturday as Michael O'Neal (8-2, 2.13 ERA) takes the mound for the Tigers against Brett Graves (0-5, 4.86 ERA). The first pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.
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