AUBURN — It was a struggle with runners in scoring position for the most of the game for Auburn baseball.
Because of that, the Maroons had to win in unconventional fashion.
Auburn won a nine-inning game against Fulton 4-3 Tuesday at Falcon Park in the first half of a two-game doubleheader, scoring the deciding run when designated hitter Logan Murphy was plunked by a pitch from Fulton's Nick Vant with the bases full.
The Maroons left a total of nine runners on base, but came through when it counted most; Auburn scored a pair of runs in the seventh to extend the game and one more in the ninth to win it.
"Fulton was up and scored two runs in the seventh, and that definitely put the pressure on our guys," Auburn coach John Turcsik said. "Once we ended the top of the seventh I didn't even say anything. The guys came together as a group and I heard the guys say 'We got this.' They definitely pulled together and we got a couple of big hits.
"It was good to see they had a lot of fight in them."
As part of a doubleheader, the game was only supposed to last five innings. Auburn nearly ensured that the game lasted its proper length, holding a 1-0 lead after four innings. However, the Maroons couldn't close it out in the top of the fifth. Fulton had a runner at second with two outs, and after a Red Raider singled, Auburn tried to make a throw to third base to catch the lead runner before he reached the bag.
The throw skipped wide of third baseman Brendan Williams, allowing the tying run to score.
Auburn was in prime position to win it in the bottom of the fifth, putting runners on first and second with one out, but Fulton turned Jacob Coleman's fly ball into two outs by doubling off pinch-runner Brandon Neagle at second base. The Maroons stranded another potential game-winning run at second in the bottom of the sixth.
In the seventh, Auburn pitcher Jacob Sanders plunked the first two Fulton batters and both later came around to score to give the Red Raiders a 3-1 advantage.
After six innings of failing to come through with runners on, the Maroons changed the narrative in the seventh with their backs against the wall. Ryan Birchard started the rally with a hard hit ball down the first-base line. Then, with two outs, Williams tripled to score Birchard and Coleman doubled to score Williams, tying the game 3-3.
Birchard came through again in the ninth, hitting a one-out double off the right-field wall. Fulton then intentionally walked Williams and unintentionally walked Coleman to bring up Murphy with the bases juiced.
After fouling a pair of pitches off, Murphy looked at a couple balls well outside the zone, and then took a pitch off his shoulder to allow the winning run to score.
Sanders didn't pick up the win, but battled through 7 2/3 innings in another strong start for the hard-throwing right-hander. He struck out 10 batters, walked three and scattered seven hits.
"Sanders pitched great," Turcsik said. "He definitely didn't have his best stuff that I've seen all year, but the thing I like is that he battled. Even when he got down a little bit he found a way to come back and throw strikes and get the outs when we needed him to. I wish we could've gotten him a few more runs but when he goes out we know he's going to compete for us."
Williams finished 2-for-2 with two RBIs and a walk. Coleman also had a pair of hits with a walk. Birchard (two runs, walk), Sanders (run, walk) and Ryan Stewart all figured in with a hit apiece. Murphy walked twice, had two steals and picked up an RBI on his hit-by-pitch.
Coleman picked up the win on the mound, shutting down Fulton in his 1 1/3 innings pitched.
Auburn 10, Fulton 4: The Maroons completed the sweep of Fulton thanks to six runs in the top of the seventh inning to break a 4-4 tie.
Auburn scored the go-ahead run when Coleman singled on a 1-1 count.
Lead-off hitter Mark Locastro went 2-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored, while Thomas Engle finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs, one run and one walk. Birchard (three walks, run), Sanders (run, walk), Coleman (run, RBI) and Matthew Bergan (run, double) all picked up hits.
Coleman pitched the first 4 2/3 innings, allowing four runs and six hits. Williams was perfect over the final 2 1/3 innings, striking out six Fulton batters while only allowing one to reach on a walk.
Auburn improves to 10-5 overall and 9-2 in the SCAC Empire Conference, one game behind Jamesville-DeWitt for the division lead. The Maroons next face Groton on a non-league game Thursday, and then the regular season wraps up with league games against Syracuse, East Syracuse-Minoa and Central Square.
If Auburn wins out in those final three games, it can guarantee a share of the division title.