AUBURN — Pablo O'Connor was robbed of the potential game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning.
When he had another opportunity to end the game in the 11th, he again put the ball in play hoping it'd find grass.
O'Connor's RBI single with the bases loaded pushed the Auburn Doubledays to an 8-7 win over the Connecticut Tigers, in 11 innings, Saturday at Falcon Park. The Doubledays were winless in three previous extra inning games this season.
"Sometimes these guys get a little too tied up in this or that instead of continuing to do what we've been doing," Auburn manager Jerad Head said. "We were unable to get that run in in the 10th, but then the 11th came, we got a bunt down, got a walk and Pablo came through that time."
Two of Auburn's losses in extras this season have come on the road. Minor league baseball has a new rule this season that every inning past the ninth starts with a runner on second base to promote quicker endings.
Head believes this new rule gives an advantage to the home team, and that showed this time around for the Doubledays.
"On the visiting side I think you have to play for two runs," Head said. "If somehow as a home team it shifts to you, you can control what you do. You can bunt to get him over, or if you're down two play for two instead of wasting an out. It's a huge advantage for the home team in that the road team kind of dictates what you do."
Auburn wouldn't have been in any position to win in extras if not for a crucial hit from Jacob Rhinesmith in the ninth. At that point, the Doubledays trailed 6-4 and were facing the New York-Penn League's saves leader in Tigers reliever Yaya Chentouf in his third inning of work.
Auburn managed to put two runners in scoring position off Chentouf to start the ninth, and with two outs Rhinesmith mashed a triple into center field that tied the score 6-6.
O'Connor, who follows Rhinesmith in the order, nearly ended the game the following at-bat but was robbed of a hit on a sliding effort from Tigers right fielder Clark Brinkman.
Connecticut had a prime opportunity to score the go-ahead run in the 10th, but Isrrael De La Cruz failed to tag up on a potential sacrifice fly. That proved a monumental gaffe considering Auburn failed to score in its first offensive chance in extras.
The Tigers scored once in the 11th to go up 7-6, but Rhinesmith worked a bases-loaded, one-out walk to tie it and then O'Connor won it immediately afterward.
David Smith (1-0, 1.83 ERA) earns the win after pitching the final two innings of the contest. Auburn also received a solid start from pitcher Jackson Stoeckinger, who lasted five innings after Connecticut nabbed him for two runs over the first two frames.
Head has commended his team, when trailing late in games this season, for continuing to fight for nine innings. Perhaps this win swings the law of averages into Auburn's favor concerning extra innings.
"If you look back at our losses the last couple weeks, we've had the tying run on or at the plate most of these games," Head said. "We're just waiting for that big hit, and tonight they did a great job of hanging in there."
Auburn (21-18) shoots for a series sweep against Connecticut at home on Sunday.