LSU’s Hilliard masterful in start with plenty of backing in 9-2 win over Auburn

LSU left fielder Gavin Dugas (8) makes a leaping grab of a foul ball with two runners on during Friday's 9-2 win over Auburn. PHOTO BY: LSU athletics.

Senior right-hander Ma’Khail Hilliard tossed 5.1 shutout innings with seven strikeouts, helping No. 12 LSU defeated Auburn 9-2 Friday at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.

LSU (19-8, 4-4) entertains Auburn (18-9, 4-4 in the SEC) in the final game of the Southeastern Conference series. The teams meet for the final game of the series Saturday at the Box for a 1:00 p.m. contest. The matchup will be broadcast locally over 98.1-FM and will be streamed by the SEC Network+.

After a clean top of the first from Hilliard, who picked up his third win of the year, sophomore centerfielder Dylan Crews crushed a home run to right field for his seventh dinger of the season before LSU tacked on two more in the fifth.

Sophomore catcher Hayden Travinski poked a single through the left side with one out. Travinski would score on sophomore shortstop Cade Doughty’s double to the left-centerfield gap to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. With Doughty on second and sophomore first baseman Tre’ Morgan on first base following a walk, Crews drove in his 31st RBI of the season with a single to left.

LSU led 3-0 heading into the latter third of the game following a scoreless sixth.

Hilliard allowed no runs on four hits while giving up two walks and sitting down seven opponents on strikes. Auburn starter Trace Bright (2-2) suffered the loss, tossing 4.1 innings and giving up three runs on four hits and four walks.

“A great performance by Ma’Khail tonight, he’s probably one of the most competitive guys on the team,” LSU baseball coach Jay Johnson said. “He’s really lifted us these last few weeks, and I’d hate to think where we’d be if we didn’t have him on the team this year. He’s a true pitcher and winner, and that’s what we want to have here at LSU.”

Freshman reliever Grant Taylor, who came on in Hilliard’s stint with two men on base in the top of the sixth, collected two strikeouts in 1.1 innings pitched. Taylor would give way to junior right-hander Paul Gervase.

Auburn scored two runs in the seventh after a walk, single, wild pitch and sac fly. Auburn centerfielder Kason Howell brought the visiting Tigers within one after slapping a single through the right side.

Sophomore Eric Reyzelman came in for Gervase with two outs, fanning shortstop Brody Moore to end the inning. Reyzelman threw 1.1 innings while giving up no runs on no hits and striking out three. Senior Trent Vietmeier closed out the game with a clean ninth inning, allowing no runs on one hit, while picking up one strikeout.

LSU’s 12-hit night was anchored by the seventh-inning five-run barrage. Travinski began the inning with a walk, which was followed by a Doughty single through the left side. Crews would reach on a fielder’s choice and sophomore third baseman Jacob Berry came through with a big double down the right-field line with two outs.

The remaining four runs the LSU scored in the inning were with two outs.

Auburn intentionally walked designated hitter Brayden Jobert to load the bases before Crews scored on a wild pitch. Sophomore shortstop Jordan Thompson laced a double down the left-field line, scoring Berry and Jobert, who advanced on the wild pitch. Senior left fielder Gavin Dugas drove in the final run of the inning with a bloop fly ball that found some grass in left-center and scored Thompson, giving the Tigers an 8-2 lead.

LSU extended its lead in the bottom of the eighth to seven with two singles, a groundout and a wild pitch.

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