Tigers Thumped By Jaguars

Auburn dropped its second game of the season to South Alabama Tuesday night in Mobile.

Mobile, Ala.--For the third time in the last four games poor pitching early cost the 8th-ranked Auburn Tigers (31-11) as South Alabama (28-12) scored six runs in the first three innings on the way to a 10-1 victory Tuesday night at Stanky Field on the South Alabama campus. Jaguar starter Bert Heath, who came in with a 3-1 record and an ERA of 6.94, pitched a complete game and gave up just six hits and one run to earn the victory. Auburn starter Josh Sullivan picked up the loss, his first of the season, by allowing two hits and three runs in 1+ innings pitched. Relievers Eric Brandon and Lee Carter didn't fare any better as the Jaguars blew the game open early and never looked back.

"They pretty much demolished us from the word go," Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said. "They've outscored us 27-4 in two games this year."

"He pitched well," Renfroe added about Heath. "We're down early and it takes you out of your rhythm. It makes it tough to bounce back. He settled in and everything worked well for him."

Bobby Huddleston had a first inning run scoring double for the Tigers Tuesday night.

Auburn got on the board first, but it would be the only threat of the night for the Tigers. Sean Gamble led off the game with a double just inside the first base bag to make his move back to the top of the order pay off early. Following outs by Javon Moran and Tug Hulett, senior designated hitter Bobby Huddleston ripped a double off the base of the left field wall to score Gamble easily from second. Karl Amonite grounded out sharply to first to end the inning with Auburn leading 1-0. That would be the end of the good news for the Tigers the rest of the way.

In the bottom of the inning T.J. Touchtone led off with a single to right field and Cole Craig followed with a sacrifice bunt that Sullivan fielded and threw to third to try to cut down Touchtone. The play was the wrong one as he was safe and the Jaguars were in business. A sacrifice fly by Ryan Pillingin scored Touchtone from third to tie the game heading to the second inning when South Alabama would explode on the Tigers.

Going back to the way he pitched earlier in the season, Sullivan lost his control in the second leading to a big inning for the Jags. Adam Lind led off the second with a walk and Tim Land followed with an infield single to put the pressure on Sullivan. He didn't respond well by walking Kevin Sytko to load the bases with nobody out. That meant a quick exit for the freshman, bringing on junior Eric Brandon. Demoted from the starting rotation to the bullpen, Brandon was looking for a good outing to give him some confidence for the stretch run in league play. It wouldn't come on this night.

After striking out number nine hitter Brett Parker in his first batter faced, Brandon got Touchtone to fly out to Moran in center field for the second out of the inning. The ball was hit deep enough to score Lind though to give the Jaguars the lead. Brandon would have his own trouble with control as he walked Craig to bring Pillingin to the plate. Hitting a grounder to Schade, Pillingin reached as Schade bobbled the ball to allow Land to score and make it 3-1 heading to the third.

Still baffled by Heath, the Tigers didn't threaten in the top half and the Jaguars came to bat in the bottom looking to end this game early. That's exactly what they did as Josh Touchtone walked to start the inning. Following a strikeout, Brandon hit Land at the plate to bring Sytka to the plate. A passed ball moved up both runners with Sytka at the plate and he did his job by lifting a fly ball into right field to score Touchtone and make it 4-1 Jaguars. Parker was up next and he ripped a double to left field to easily score Land and the younger Touchtone put an end to the scoring in the inning when he singled to center to score Parker. Trailing 6-1, Auburn needed a rally, but it wasn't to be on this night.

South Alabama added another run in the fourth off Carter before putting the clamps on the Tigers in the fifth with three runs. The big blow came off the bat of South Alabama's Ryan Mulhern, who drove one deep over the center field wall for a two-run home run. The blast was the 13th of the season for Mulhern and tied him for the all-time lead at South Alabama with 42.

Trailing 10-1 going to the sixth inning, the Tigers played out the string for the remainder of the game with Heath dominating them at the plate. Relievers Andrew Skinner and Levale Speigner pitched well in the late innings for the Tigers as they kept the Jaguars at 10 runs for the last three innings, but the offense never came around in the loss.

Auburn travels to Nashville this weekend to face the surging Vanderbilt Commodores in a key series for both teams. Auburn remains just one-half game out of first place in the SEC West while the Commodores trail Eastern Division leader South Carolina by one game.

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