"I told our team there is a lot of baseball left to be played," Coach John Pawlowski said. "Unfortunately we have not gotten off to the start that we had hoped for. When you play good teams--Vanderbilt is a very good team--when you have opportunities you have to seize those opportunities and we didn't this weekend.
"Now we have to find a way to regroup," the coach said. "We have got some guys that need to improve. We need to look at everything and evaluate everything. We'll get better. I'm confident in this team and the guys."
It makes the first time Auburn has been swept in back-to-back SEC series since the 2007 season when Georgia and Florida swept the Tigers in consecutive weeks. For a team that did so many good things last season on the way to the SEC Western Division title, junior Casey McElroy said right now it's tough to swallow how the season has started.
"We have to take this series and kind of flush it," McElroy said. "We have to start over new on Tuesday. That's probably the best team we've played, the best pitching. They outplayed us. We just need to flush it and start over new.
"It's a long season and we try to take it one game at a time," he added. "The best thing for us to do right now is to flush it and get our minds right. We're just not playing well right now. We've got to put everything together. We know it's a long season."
On the mound Auburn starter Derek Varnadore gave the Tigers a chance to win, allowing just one run on six hits in five and one/third innings. Once again the bullpen was a struggle as Ethan Wallen gave up four earned runs in one inning of work to take the loss and fall to 1-3 on the year.
In the first inning Vanderbilt wasted little time in getting on top of the Tigers as Varnadore walked leadoff man Tony Kemp to put the Commodores in business in the first. Putting on the hit and run and successful for at least the fourth time in three games, Vanderbilt had runners on first and third after an Anthony Gomez ground ball to second and an error on Kevin Patterson at first base on a close play put the pressure on Varnadore.
He didn't help himself with the second free runner of the inning as he hit Aaron Westlake to load the bases for Jason Esposito. Hitting a high chopper to the right side, Esposito reached on an error by McElroy as the ball bounced into right field allowing two runs to score. Varnadore recovered to get out of the inning with no more damage, but without getting a ball out of the infield the Commodores were up 2-0.
The trouble continued in the second as a one-out error by Gilmer, the third already for the Tigers, put Varnadore in another early hole. A bunt single by Kemp quickly put runners on first and second for Gomez. It looked like things would go from bad to worse as Gomez ripped a ground ball up the middle, but a diving grab by McElroy saved the run.
On the play the junior attempted to flip the ball to Zach Alvord at second and his glove came off along with the ball in the process. Kemp continued to run around second base however and the Tigers retired him in a rundown. A ground ball out allowed Varnadore to escape still giving up just two runs, but his pitch count was already at 43.
In the bottom of the fourth Auburn finally made something happen offensively as Tony Caldwell walked to lead things off and moved to third on a double by Gamache that just bounced over Westlake's head at first base. Making up for his error, Gilmer singled through the middle to score both runners and tie the game at two.
In the fifth Varnadore again escaped trouble as the first two Vanderbilt hitters reached base, but the big junior recovered to keep the Commodores off the board. Despite having 14 base runners in the first five innings Vandy had just two runs as the game went to the sixth inning.
"We did some damage control," Pawlowski said. "Varny did a good job early in the game. They found a way to get guys on base. I thought he did a good job. Anytime you get in that situation we could have given up a lot of runs early, but we didn't and kept the game close. They certainly capitalized on that one big inning."
Auburn missed a golden opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning as Caldwell singled to left and was followed by Gamache and Gilmer with singles of their own to load the bases with one out. Reliever Will Clinard came on to strike out pinch hitter Brooks Beisner and get Creede Simpson on a fly ball to end the inning.
Wallen faced some trouble of his own in the top of the seventh as Casali singled with one out. With Sam Lind at the plate Wallen appeared to get a strikeout on an inside pitch, but on the follow through the ball his Lind. The umpire ruled he didn't swing and that put a pair of runners on for Riley Reynolds.
Having a very good weekend, Reynolds lined a pitch off Wallen on the mound. He recovered to make the play close at first, but Reynolds just beat it out to load the bases. Pinch hitter Conrad Gregor came up big with a single to right field to make it 3-2. Luckie came on to face Kemp, but uncorked a wild pitch to allow a run to score for the two-run lead. Kemp then reached on an infield single to load the bases where a sacrifice fly scored Reynolds to put the Commodores up 5-2. Another hit by Westlake increased the lead to four.
That would be plenty for the Commodores on this day as they cruised through the final three innings to complete the sweep and improve to 26-3 on the season and 7-2 in SEC play.
Auburn will return to action Tuesday as the Tigers travel to Troy to face the Trojans. The first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT.