Vandy Drops Auburn In Series Opener

Auburn dropped the series opener 11-6 to the top-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores on Friday night.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's struggles in the SEC continued Friday night as the #1 Vanderbilt Commodores showed why they are among the best teams in the country with an 11-6 win over the Tigers at Plainsman Park. Vanderbilt pounded out 20 hits and cruised to the win, the third-straight Friday night loss in SEC play for the Tigers.

With the loss Auburn falls to 15-11 overall and 2-5 in SEC play. Vanderbilt improves to 24-3, 5-2 in league play. Coach John Pawlowski said it was just a matter of the Commodores being a better team Friday night.

"It was not a very clean baseball game," Pawlowski said. "I thought we did a lot of things that you can't do in order to beat a quality team, let alone Vanderbilt. We got the game to 3-2 and I thought we had our chances at that point and we didn't have an answer."

The story of the game coming in was Vanderbilt starter Sonny Gray and he did his part, allowing just two runs on four hits in five innings. It was the Commodores' offense that stole the show however as Tony Kemp, Anthony Gomez and Riley Reynolds all had four hits on a night when Vandy had 18 singles, a double, and a triple.

Making his first SEC start and just his second start overall, junior college transfer Andrew Morris was roughed up the Vanderbilt in the loss. Lasting just three innings, the Prattville native allowed three earned runs on nine hits. Auburn's relievers weren't any better as Dillon Ortman allowed three runs, Sean Ray three runs and Bradley Hendrix one in the loss.

"The first guy of the game we get 0-2 and he hit's a ground ball to second and beats it out," Pawlowski said. "He (Morris) did a good job of damage control, but how many times can you wiggle yourself out of trouble with the bases loaded. He kept the game intact and that's what he needed to do. That's a quality team and they found a way to put swings together and execute."

Vanderbilt missed a golden opportunity in the first as the Commodores loaded the bases before Morris escaped without giving up a run. He wouldn't be as fortunate in the second as with one out Reynolds singled and number nine hitter Connor Harrell was hit by a pitch to bring leadoff man Kemp to the plate.

Driving a pitch deep to left field, Kemp appeared to have put the Commodores on top but Reynolds froze to see if Creede Simpson was going to catch the ball. That meant the runners had to hold, loading the bases for Gomez. Pulling one to the right side and just off the glove of a diving Kevin Patterson, his infield single pushed across Reynolds for the 1-0 lead. Morris recovered to strike out the final two hitters and keep the deficit at one.

Single runs in the third and fourth the Vanderbilt made it a three-run advantage for Gray to work with. In the third a leadoff walk to Mike Yastrzemski led to a run as a Reynolds single scored him from third. In the fourth Aaron Westlake doubled home Gomez before Ortman came in to shut the door on the Commodore rally.

Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth Auburn put together its first rally of the game against Gray. Getting a one-out walk from Cullen Wacker Auburn got its third hit of the game as Simpson singled up the middle. After a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, senior Justin Hargett's ground ball to first base scored Wacker and made it 3-1 Vandy. Justin Fradejas followed with a bloop single to left and just like that it was a one-run game heading to the sixth.

Auburn just couldn't keep the pressure on Vanderbilt in the sixth though as Westlake walked and Esposito reached on an infield single to put the first two Commodores on for the fourth time in six innings. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners into scoring position for Curt Casali and the catcher came through with a single to left field. That put Vandy back in front 4-2 and brought Ortman's night to a close.

With runners on the corners and one out, Ray came on in relief to face pinch hitter Jack Lupo. Putting down a bunt towards first base, Lupo got an RBI on the sacrifice as Esposito scored easily as the Commodores went back up by three runs. Another single by Reynolds, his third hit of the game, all but did in the Tigers as Casali's run made it a 6-2 lead for Corey Williams and the Vandy bullpen to work with.

Four more runs in the seventh made it 10-2 before a McElroy sacrifice fly scored pinch runner Brooks Beisner in the bottom of the eighth. Auburn added another run in the inning and two more in the ninth while Vandy tacked on a ninth inning run for the final score.

Jon Luke Jacobs (1-1, 1.93) will get the call on Saturday for the Tigers against lefty Grayson Garvin (4-1, 2.45) for the Commodores. The first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. and can be seen on CSS or online at

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