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'It's time': Brendan's blast sparks series win for Auburn baseball after Pearl pep talk
<em> Brendan Venter heads home after hitting a three-run home run in Auburn's 7-5 win Sunday vs. Mississippi State. Photo: Dakota Sumpter/Auburn Athletics.</em>
Brendan Venter heads home after hitting a three-run home run in Auburn's 7-5 win Sunday vs. Mississippi State. Photo: Dakota Sumpter/Auburn Athletics.

April 15, 2018

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - On the 3-mile drive to Plainsman Park Sunday, Auburn baseball coach Butch Thompson realized the magnitude of the game that would follow.

"I woke up and I got in the car and said, `This is a big one,'" Thompson said. "'This is a big one for our program. This is a big one for this team moving forward this year.'"

Trailing 4-0 in the sixth, Auburn erupted for seven runs, giving the Tigers a 7-5 series-clinching win over Mississippi State.

"Sometimes in this league, it doesn't have to be pretty. It doesn't have to be perfect. It's just got to be a W," he said. "This one keeps us moving ahead. We're at the halfway point. We've got 15 more [SEC] games to play. I think this team has a chance to get back and get hot again. We have to keep pushing."

The weekend began with straight talk from Thompson before Thursday's practice and a pep talk from Bruce Pearl after. It ended with a comeback reminiscent of those Auburn's basketball team executed en route to the SEC championship.

"I just wanted the team to reunite for a new goal," Thompson said after Friday's 2-1 series opening win. "You can do that a couple times a year, and whenever you do that, you want everybody involved. I gave them my story of what I think is bigger than baseball.

"That was so serious that once it got to about 4:30 to end practice, I asked Bruce if he would come over because he's got juice, he's got energy and he connects so great. And I thought that was a good balance to my message early, to end the day with him getting the guys fired up and excited."

Casey Mize set the tone in the series opener, pitching a complete game five-hitter. Cody Greenhill earned the win Sunday, pitching the final 4.1 innings. Greenhill and fellow freshman Tanner Burns combined for nine strikeouts.

Brendan Venter delivered the biggest hit Sunday, a three-run home run that put Auburn up 5-4.

"I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit and make a difference," Venter said. "Competing and trying to do whatever you can for your team. It meant a lot to me. Our team is so close. Everyone loves everyone and we want the best for everyone. When things haven't been going our way, we've been trying to stick together.

"The coaches have done a good job with us, keeping us positive. We're on board and we're ready to get this thing rolling. It's time. It's time to do it."

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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