Sophomore Ka’ai Tom slapped a two out single into right field to with runners on the corners to break a five-five tie in the bottom of the tenth inning that capped furious Wildcat rally in the final home game of the season. Second baseman JaVon Shelby led off the inning with an infield single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Austin Cousino. After a fly-out to center by Max Kuhn that advanced Shelby to third, A.J. Reed (the NCAA leader in homeruns and heavy favorite to be the National Player of the Year) was intentionally walked to bring Tom to the plate.
“Everyone in the stadium knew that A.J. (Reed) was going to get walked”, said Tom. “I just kept taking deep breaths and luckily the ball got through the infield. It took pretty much the who season to get a walk-off win, so it feels great.”
The win seemed improbable after the first five innings where the Cats were held to just two hits and trailed 5-0 after giving up four runs in the second and another in the fourth. Their fortunes began to turn in the sixth as Micheal Thomas drew a bases loaded walk to push across the first Wildcat run. Matt Reida hit a chopper up the middle that was misplayed by the shortstop behind the second base bag to make it 5-2. JaVon Shelby grounded into a run scoring double play and Austin Cousino smacked a double to cut the lead to one. Third baseman Max Kuhn nearly tied the game with an infield single but was thrown out at first by a fraction of a step.
“Really good win, I’m really proud of the kids”, said Head Coach Gary Henderson. “To be able to be down five going into the bottom of the sixth and come back and chip away and then leave some base runners on there, it showed some real resilience from our kids.”
The Cats threatened to take control of the game as they loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the seventh but couldn’t push across the tying run as Auburn turned to center fielder Ryan Tella, who fanned three straight Wildcats to preserve the lead. Tella, a senior, made just his second career appearance for the Tigers. His first was Tuesday night where he faced two batters.
Austin Cousino tied the game at five in the eighth with a one-out solo homerun that snuck just inside the right field foul pole. “It was curving a lot in the beginning, I think there were some baseball gods up there who helped with the wind”, said Cousino of his fourth homer of the season.
The Wildcat bullpen finally came through in the clutch, allowing just one run over the final eight innings. Junior Spencer Jack earned his third win of the season, working the final two innings and wiggled out of a bases loaded jam with one-out in the top of the ninth.
The Cats (30-20, 12-15 SEC) will hit the road for the final week of the season, first traveling to Paducah on Tuesday night for a match-up with Murray State before heading to Athens for the final SEC series of the year. The three-game set against the Bulldogs will have major post season implications as both teams are fighting for the final SEC Tournament spot.