Trailing 3-2 in the eighth inning and very much in the game Saturday night, Auburn allowed eight runs with two outs to take away any chance at a win against the top-ranked Commodores (25-3, 6-2). In the last five games the Tigers have allowed 35 runs with two outs and much like the entire series against Mississippi State, on Saturday it was the difference in the game.
"We talk about trying to get the game to make it a short game and my goodness," Pawlowski said. "We're right there and a couple of swings and it's a different ballgame. We made a couple of mistakes and they certainly made us pay for it. Against good teams you can't do that. Every mistake we made they capitalized on it."
On the mound starter Jon Luke Jacobs was as good as any Auburn starter has been in quite some time. Going five and one/third innings, he gave up just three runs on five hits and struck out four. The problem came in the bullpen as four Tigers' relievers allowed eight runs on six hits in just three and two/thirds innings. Zach Blatt was touched for much of the damage, allowing six runs on three hits in just two/thirds of an inning.
Offensively the Tigers were just 2-16 with runners on base and 1-11 with runners in scoring position despite getting a pair of hits each from Tony Caldwell and Zach Alvord. Striking out eight times with just one walk, Auburn's struggles continued and senior captain Kevin Patterson said all they can do is keep plugging.
"It's definitely frustrating," Patterson said. "That's stating the obvious. Tonight you look up and we're in a 3-2 game. We're battling and fighting against Grayson Garvin, a first-rounder or whatever he's supposed to be. All of the sudden it just kind of blows up on us. The past two nights we feel like we've been in both of the games and then the wheels just kind of come off.
"Everybody in the locker room is frustrated. We're trying to stay together. It's just the way baseball is right now. We're trying to find a way to fight through it, put some at-bats together, innings together. That's how you win games and we just haven't been doing it lately."
The two teams traded solo home runs to start the scoring as big Aaron Westlake homered in the first off Jacobs to put Vandy on the board. In the third Alvord answered with his own solo shot. His first career homer was a deep shot to left-center off Garvin and made it 1-1 after three innings.
In the fourth Auburn took its first lead of the series as Wes Gilmer singled through the left side, but was cut down on a ground ball off the bat of Creede Simpson. Following a strikeout, Simpson stole second to move into scoring position with Alvord at the plate. With the infield playing back, Alvord put down a bunt towards first base for a single. Trying to make a play, Westlake lost the ball out of his glove towards the Vandy dugout. Never slowing down around third, Simpson scored on the error to make it 2-1 Tigers.
With Jacobs cruising on the mound that's the way things would stay until Vanderbilt pulled back in front in the sixth. With one out Tony Kemp singled up the middle and scored moments later on an Anthony Gomez double to tie the game at two. With the lefty Westlake coming to the plate Auburn made the move to bring Cory Luckie in to pitch, but it didn't work out as he walked him to put runners on first and second with one out.
Facing the talented Jason Esposito, Wallen got a ground ball on a hit-and-run attempt by the Commodores. Unfortunately the high chopper fielded by Hargett at second was so slow that his attempt to get the runner at second was late. Running on the play, Gomez scored from second to put Vanderbilt back in front 3-2.
Auburn missed an opportunity to score in the seventh as a two-out double from Dan Gamache and Gilmer getting hit by a pitch put a pair of runners on for Simpson. Facing reliever Mark Lamin, Simpson scored a liner to center field right at Mike Yastrzemski for out number three.
Blatt came on to try to hold the deficit to one in the eighth inning and instead Vanderbilt would explode to put the game out of reach. Committing the cardinal sin, Blatt hit Kemp to lead the inning off, but recovered to get Gomez on a fly ball to left field. Facing Westlake, Blatt worked the count full before the lefty laced a double to left field to put runners on second and third.
Following a pop up, Yastrzemski made it a three-run lead with a single off Blatt and the rout was on. A double by Curt Casali scored Yaz all the way from first for a 6-2 Commodore lead. A pair of walks loaded the bases and put an end to Blatt's night. Slade Smith came on and promptly gave up three hits and five more runs to make it 11-2 Vanderbilt going to the bottom of the eighth inning.
Auburn will try to avoid a second consecutive sweep on Sunday as junior Derek Varnadore takes the mound for the Tigers against Vandy. The first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Plainsman Park.