AUBURN, Ala. — Just like last year, Auburn couldn't hold a lead against Arizona State.
The No. 7 Sun Devils rallied from three deficits Friday night for an 8-7 win against the No. 23 Tigers at Plainsman Park to start a three-game series.
Arizona State (10-2) scored twice in the ninth for the win, tying the game on an Xorge Carrillo single and going ahead on a single by Zack MacPhee that took a fortuitous bounce into right field.
"It's real disappointing," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "We knew they weren't going away. That's a solid ballclub over there and they play to a high level. We had our chances. It just didn't work out."
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Auburn (10-4) was swept by Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., last season, despite leading in every game.
The Tigers looked like they would break that streak, taking a 7-6 lead in the eighth after an errant throw on Justin Fradejas' infield single allowed pinch runner Bobby Andrews to score.
But Arizona State (10-2) rallied. Reliever Ethan Wallen walked Austin Barnes to start the ninth. After a bunt moved him to second, Carrillo's RBI single up the middle scored him to tie the game at 7.
Andy Workman batted next and hit a sharp grounder up the middle that got past the pitcher's mound and struck umpire Jay Pierce on the foot. The ball ricocheted to second baseman Justin Hargett, who was ready to fire to first when Pierce ruled the play dead, putting runners and first and second.
Pawlowski argued the call saying the play should have been live, although the umpires were backed up by the rulebook, which says a fair ball that hits an umpire before it passes an infielder other than the pitcher is dead and runners advance one base.
"Sometimes those things happen," Pawlowski said. "It's unfortunate the ball hitting the umpire. That's part of baseball."
After an ASU runner was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a grounder to short, MacPhee hit a grounder into hole between first and second that took a bad hop over Hargett's head and into right field, allowing Workman to score with the winning run.
Wallen (0-1) took the loss, giving up two runs in 2 2/3 innings of relief. Auburn starter Cory Luckie struck out eight, one shy of a career-high, giving up three runs on nine hits in 4 2/3
Arizona State reliever Mitchell Lambson (3-1) earned the win after giving up one run in 2 1/3 innings.
Dan Gamache went 3-for-4 for the Tigers, driving in Auburn's first four runs with a double and triple. Kevin Patterson added a two-run homer in the sixth, his second of the year.
Johnny Ruettiger was 2-for-5 for ASU with three RBIs and Barnes was 3-for-4.
The Tigers and Sun Devils play again today at 4 p.m. ET. Auburn will start Slade Smith (1-0, 7.98 ERA) against Kyle Ottoson (2-0, 3.46).