Five different Auburn pitchers combined to issue 12 walks to Georgia hitters on Sunday with seven coming in the final two innings. Reliever Ethan Wallen took the loss for the Tigers, allowing four runs on one hit and walking two while failing to get an out. Senior Sean Ray gave up the game-winning grand slam in the top of the ninth and said it was a matter of the pitching staff not getting the job done.
"We just didn't get ahead of guys," Ray said of the ninth inning. "They were disciplined. I think they had three hits and they made those three hits count. We have to make pitches. There is no excuse. The offense put up 11 runs. Credit them (Georgia) because anytime you can score nine runs in an inning it's hard to do, no matter what happens. They got it done."
The loss could be a huge blow to the Tigers. Already with the series win over Georgia, a sweep would have tied Coach John Pawlowski's club for first place in the SEC West with Arkansas and next week's opponent Alabama. Instead the Tigers have to regroup after a disastrous finish on Sunday.
"It was two totally different ballgames," Pawlowski said. "You have the front end of the game where offensively we did a lot of positive things. You flip the game around and in the last inning they certainly did some great things offensively too.
"That adds up," he added of the walks. "That's the frustrating part. Our team is disappointed with the loss, but we'll have to put it behind us quickly and get ready to play again on Tuesday."
Leading 11-5 going to the top of the ninth inning and freshman Dillon Ortman on the mound, Auburn looked to be in good shape to get the sweep of the Bulldogs. However the eighth inning proved to be a warning sign for the Tigers as Zach Blatt and Ortman both walked a batter and struggled to find the zone.
That continued to start the ninth as Ortman walked pinch hitter Lance Martin and Farmer and uncorked a wild pitch to put runners on second and third. Following a groundout that kept the runners at home, Davidson hit his second three-run shot of the game to center field to make it a three-run contest.
Wallen came on to try to hold the lead and immediately the unrest continued as a walk and a hit batter followed by a single loaded the bases for pinch hitter Kevin Ruiz. Another walk pushed across a run to make it a two-run game and end the short day for Wallen. Ray came in and quickly added to the misery with a walk of Levi Hyams. Just like that Auburn's lead was down to 11-10. Ray recovered to strike out Martin and bring Farmer to the plate with two outs and the bases full. Getting behind 1-0 Ray grooved one that Farmer blasted over the monster in left field for a grand slam to give Georgia the 14-11 lead. Closer Tyler Maloof pitched a scoreless ninth to seal the victory for a jubilant Bulldogs' team.
Things couldn't have started any better for Auburn on Sunday. Leading off Justin Fradejas singled to center field and then quickly moved to third on a Dan Gamache single to right field. With runners on the corners Casey McElroy bounced a single over the head of Georgia first baseman Jonathan Hester to start the scoring for the Tigers.
With runners on the corners and nobody out catcher Tony Caldwell was hit by a pitch to load the bases for the heart of the Auburn order. Following a Wes Gilmer groundout that made it 2-0, Auburn senior Kevin Patterson went the other way with a pitch for a double into left-center field. That scored McElroy for the three-run lead and brought Simpson to the plate with a pair in scoring position.
Struggling with just eight hits in his last 50 at-bats, Creede Simpson got a pitch to drive and didn't miss it. Sending a rocket to left field that just cleared the wall for his second homer of the year, Simpson put Auburn up 6-0 and the Tigers still weren't done in the first.
Up with two outs and nobody on, senior Justin Hargett put down a perfect bunt single and stole second to move into scoring position for Fradejas. Up for the second time in the inning he again singled, this time to drive home Hargett. Another stolen base and single from McElroy brought the scoring to a close in the first as the Tigers and starter Slade Smith were staked to an 8-0 lead.
Both teams added a run before Georgia cut into Auburn's lead in the sixth inning as Smith helped out the Bulldogs' cause with a leadoff walk to Farmer. Cone followed with a double down the left field line to score the runner. That brought Davidson to the plate. Pinch hitting for the Bulldogs, the 6-5, 250 lefty hit a massive home run to right field and just like that Auburn's lead was down to five. Smith recovered to strike out the next three hitters to keep it 9-4.
That would be the end of the day for Smith as Blatt came on in relief in the seventh. The Bulldogs got a pair of runners on base with two outs but the Opelika native got Cone on strikes to end the inning with no damage done. The Tigers turned around to threaten in the bottom of the seventh as Gilmer walked and Patterson singled to put a pair of runners on base with nobody out.
Patterson was cut down on a Simpson bunt to put runners on the corners for Wacker. A stolen base on the first pitch by Auburn's center fielder put both into scoring position and the junior college transfer came through with a single to right to score Gilmer. A walk to Hargett loaded the bases for Fradejas but he popped up on the infield for out number two. A Gamache strikeout closed the books on the Auburn seventh with the Tigers up 10-4.
Continuing to struggle throwing strikes, Blatt walked the leadoff man in the top of the eighth to end his day. Ortman came in and immediately walked the first man he faced for the seventh free pass of the day for Auburn pitching. Following a pop up, a Patterson error at first allowed a run to score. Ortman recovered to get groundouts to Patterson and Hargett to end the inning though and keep the Tigers in front by five.
Auburn added what appeared to be an insurance run in the ninth inning in a Patterson single to give the Tigers a six-run lead to work with, but it wouldn't be enough as the Bulldogs scored nine to salvage a game in the series.
It will be a busy week for Auburn as the Tigers travel to Birmingham to face Samford at 6 p.m. on Tuesday night, return home to face Alabama State at Plainsman Park on Wednesday night at 6 p.m., and then play host to Alabama in a three-game series beginning Friday night.