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Sharp Pitching, Clutch Swings Help LSU Even Series With Auburn in 9-2 Win

Hilliard gets LSU on right path, offense gets cooking late to pull away from Auburn

Behind a gem of a pitching performance by Ma'Khail Hilliard, LSU was able to even its series with Auburn in a 9-2 win.

The story of the night for LSU was the pitching effort out of its senior pitcher Hilliard, who did a phenomenal job of holding down the fort as the offense struggled to get going. His location was off the charts, using all edges of the plate to fool the Auburn batters and it showed with his seven strikeouts on the evening. 

For the second straight week, Hilliard executed the gameplan to perfection, getting the purple and gold through 5.1 scoreless innings before running into a bit of trouble. Hilliard has always been one of the more poised pitchers on the staff, even when teams start figuring him out a little. On Saturday against Auburn, he'd allow the bases to load in the third but got out of it by forcing a popfly. 

When Auburn plated two more runners in the sixth, Hilliard was pulled for the freshman Grant Taylor, who was also coming off a stellar weekend effort against Florida. With two runners on base, Taylor came out firing bullets on the mound, getting LSU out of trouble and was helped by the play of the night from Gavin Dugas out in left field. 

In the seventh, when Auburn was able put a few runs on the board, it was the relief performance out of Eric Reyzelman that helped LSU cling to a 3-2 lead with a huge strikeout to close the inning. 

It took a little while for the offense to get cooking, a theme that's been common with this group. But when they get into a groove they are tough to slow down. 

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Dylan Crews was the big star at the plate, showing why he's such a polarizing college hitter. A solo home run in the first and a great piece of situational hitting in the fifth on an RBI single were just a few of the highlights for Crews, who went 2-for-3 at the plate. 

Possibly the most important offensive inning of the season came in response to the two runs hung by Auburn in the seventh. The purple and gold would hang five runs in the bottom of the seventh as a response, highlighted by RBI swings from Jacob Berry, Jordan Thompson and Dugas to push the lead to six runs. 

Perhaps most impressive of all was that all five runs in the inning came with two outs as LSU nearly batted around the order.

The monster seventh inning certainly had the feel as one of the most meaningful of the season on the fact that it was one of the handful of times LSU has responded to a big run from an opposing team. It's all a part of the growth process Jay Johnson has stressed from the beginning. 

LSU will look to take the series with a rubber match scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday.

(Photo courtesy of LSUsports)