*From Auburn Media Relations*
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn's senior class would not be denied in its final regular season game at Plainsman Park as the baseball team pulled out a 5-4 win over No. 2 Florida on Saturday. The win upped Auburn's record to 30-26, 13-17 SEC while Florida dropped to 40-16, 18-12 SEC.
"Something special happened here today," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "I am really proud of the way our kids responded. We were down several players today and the guys that stepped into those roles and played and contributed, that was special on this big day for all our seniors."
Auburn honored its eight seniors (Zach Blatt, Caleb Bowen, Justin Bryant, Jon Luke Jacobs, Cory Luckie, Creede Simpson, Derek Varnadore and Ethan Wallen) before the game and then it was the senior's turn to end the regular season on a high note.
Varnadore (4-7) logged seven full innings in his first start since April 20, allowing four runs (three earned) on 10 hits and two walks while striking out three. The righty was tagged for three runs in the second and an unearned run in the fourth but was helped out when the Auburn defense turned double plays in the sixth and seventh innings.
"I was just happy I had the opportunity today," Varnadore said. "Coach (Pawlowski) told me last night that I was starting and I was excited I had the opportunity today to just go out there and throw. He told me to go as long as I can and just throw it. I felt pretty good about what I did but they (the rest of the team) got me the win today."
Bryant followed Varnadore and picked up his sixth save of the season with two shutout innings and also drove in the winning run in the seventh before his trip to the mound. Facing Florida closer Austin Maddox with two in scoring position and two out, Bryant hit a hard single back up the middle that Florida second baseman Casey Turgeon dove for and stopped from going into the outfield. However, in Turgeon's effort to get Bryant at first, Simpson, who was on second, never hesitated in rounding third, scoring what proved to be the winning run on the play.
Simpson, who grew up in Auburn and graduated from Auburn High School, also had the game-ending play, throwing a strike to Bowen behind the plate after a Brian Johnson fly out to right to nail Preston Tucker trying to score from third. Simpson, who started all 56 games at second, was moved to right in the top of the third after everyday right fielder Jay Gonzalez left with a sprained thumb following a diving attempt on a Florida double earlier in the game.
"I went out there (to right field) and there really wasn't much action until the last inning," Simpson said. "I saw the ball, realized it was shallow and just tried to get behind it and make a good throw. I knew it was on-line I was just worried that it would short-hop but it bounced perfectly and long-hopped to Bowen. He did a good job of catching that ball and putting the tag on."
Simpson finished the game 0-for-4 with a run and a RBI while Bryant was 1-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.
Steven Rodriguez (3-2) took the loss for Florida, getting charged for all three of Auburn's runs in the seventh.
Florida went single, double, triple in the second by Johnson, Daniel Pigott and Turgeon to go up two and then had a bases loaded, run scoring double play to take a 3-0 lead in the second.
Auburn answered with single runs in the second and third as Zach Alvord doubled in Patrick Savage in the second and Tanner Cimo, inserted at second after Simpson went to right, walked and scored on an error to make it a 3-2 game after three.
Florida regained a two-run lead, 4-2, in the fourth as Tobias singled and scored on a Tucker single.
The game remained a two-run Florida advantage until the seventh when Alvord and Self both singled to start the inning. A Simpson fielder's choice made it a one-run game before Bryant's two-out hit gave Auburn the lead.
Auburn had already clinched a berth in next week's Southeastern Conference Tournament and goes into the tournament as the No. 10 seed against an opponent to be determined. The game will begin at 4:30pm on Tuesday.
The day was extra special for Blatt, who proposed to his girlfriend, Kristin Stockton, during the pre-game ceremony. To the delight of many, she said yes.