Tigers' starter Cory Luckie had a solid day on the mound, allowing four earned runs in five and one/third innings, but it was no match for the favorites to win the ACC in 2011. Virginia pounded Auburn pitching for 17 hits with junior Danny Hultzen doing the most damage with three doubles and three RBI.
For Auburn second baseman Justin Hargett led the way with a pair of hits as Auburn managed just eight total hits against the Cavaliers with five of those coming in the last two innings from players off the bench. Coach John Pawlowski said all the credit Saturday goes to Wilson and his performance on the mound but he said his team has to play much better than it showed in the loss.
"They pitched extremely well," Pawlowski said. "The biggest thing is that I'm disappointed in how things turned out. The first half of the game was a close ballgame 1-0. The next thing you know it's 3-0 and then they just opened it up and scored some runs. It's a disappointing loss. Obviously we didn't do many things right and they did. They were a good club and certainly deserved to win today."
With the talk of the new bats that wasn't a problem for the Tigers on Saturday. The problem came because Auburn couldn't get any good swings against Wilson. That wasn't the case for Virginia as they got production up and down the lineup in the win. Six different Cavaliers had at least two hits for the game and with four Auburn pitchers combining for seven walks it made for a long day on the mound.
"Cory had second and third with two outs and made one mistake," Pawlowski said. "The guy hit a double down the left field line and opened it up a little bit. He gave us a Chance Early in the game. We didn't have a lot of quality at-bats. We didn't do a lot of things right today. We're going to have to make a lot of adjustments. We'll have to learn from it."
Even though it wasn't pretty Pawlowski said having the opportunity to play a team like Virginia early is a big thing for his team as it prepares to face the tough SEC down the road.
"I think it's good," Pawlowski said. "I like playing challenging schedules. That's a good team, a very good team. Our guys know you can't make mistakes and do the things we did if you want to win at a high level. It's a hard lesson to learn but sometimes it seems to sink in a little faster when you get beat like that. Hopefully we'll learn from it."
Following a pair of scoreless innings to start Saturday's game, Virginia put up a serious threat in the top of the third as Jared King and Chris Taylor singled to start the frame. That brought number two hitter Keith Werman to the plate. Playing the percentages, the Cavaliers bunted the runners over into scoring position for the middle of the Virginia order.
Known for getting ground balls, Luckie did just that as third baseman Steven Proscia hit a solid two-hop ground ball to Casey McElroy at third base. Looking briefly at first, McElroy instead threw to the plate where Tony Caldwell was waiting. The senior catcher ran Swab back to the bag at third base where he made the tag for out number two. Luckie then got John Hicks to roll out to Justin Hargett at second to end the threat.
Luckie wouldn't be as fortunate in the top of the fifth as Virginia finally struck. Delivering his second hit of the game, King got the rally started with a single. It appeared he would be left on base as the Auburn junior recovered to strike out the next two hitters before a costly walk to Proscia brought Hicks to the plate. A dangerous hitter, he belted a double to left field to score King for the game's first run. Friday's pitcher for Virginia, Hultzen followed with a double to left to score two more and make it 3-0 Cavs.
With one out in the sixth a walk to Kenny Swab brought Luckie's day to a close as Hendrix came on to replace him. After pinch hitter Ryan Levine's groundout moved the runner to second a single from Taylor scored Swab for the 4-0 lead. A Werman single put runners on first and third when Virginia decided to put some pressure on the Tigers.
Sending Werman from first, the Cavaliers forced a throw from Caldwell. Unfortunately the throw was errant and wound up in center field. It was his third error of the season and made it a five-run lead. A Proscia single then made it 6-0 Virginia. If it wasn't for a great play by Justin Fradejas in center field things could have been worse as a Hicks blast was run down by the senior a the wall in left-center for the final out.
Virginia added a single run off Hendrix in the seventh to lead by a touchdown heading to the bottom of the inning. With Wilson's day done reliever Will Roberts came on and picked up where his captain left off by retiring the Tigers in order in the seventh. Three more Virginia runs off reliever Will Kendall made it 10-0 before Auburn finally got a little offense going.
Leading off the inning, pinch-hitter Mike Reed singled with fellow pinch-hitter Brooks Beisner following with a double off the wall in left. After a groundout to third, yet another pinch-hitter, Tyler Dial, came through. The freshman from Russell County singled to right field for his first hit and first RBI of his Auburn career to put the Tigers on the board. Three more Virginia runs in the ninth and a single run by the home team made the final 13-2.
Auburn will be looking to move over .500 on Sunday as the Tigers take on UAB at 3 p.m. at Plainsman Park. Junior college transfer Derek Varnadore will get the start for the Tigers and Pawlowski said it will be a chance to see him and several more young guys on Sunday.
"It will be a good chance to get him in there," Pawlowski said of Varnadore. "We got a few of the freshmen in today. We've got some other guys I'm anxious to see and see how they've developed. We'll see what they can do."