For the Tigers Tuesday night it wasn't a case of late inning problems on the mound, but out of the gate as starter Bradley Hendrix allowed seven runs on seven hits and walked four in three and two/third innings to put Auburn in a serious hole early. Coach John Pawlowski said he was proud of his team for fighting back, but they just couldn't get over the hump.
"I thought we got behind early and put some good at-bats together," Pawlowski said. "We got back in the ballgame. They made the plays and made the pitches when they needed to. We just weren't able to overcome that. Certainly I was encouraged by some of the things that happened from our bullpen. I thought some of those guys threw the ball well today. Unfortunately we didn't win."
Needing his bullpen in a big way Pawlowski got just that as Will Kendall, Jay Wade and Ethan Wallen allowed just two runs on four hits in six innings. At the plate Justin Fradejas and Tony Caldwell led the way with three hits each, both finishing a home run away from the cycle. Casey McElroy and Cullen Wacker had two hits each with Wacker adding his first career home run.
Auburn must now try to get something going Wednesday night as the Tigers play host to Alabama State for a 6 p.m. start at Plainsman Park. Losing two consecutive tough games the last two times out Pawlowski said it's important for his team to get that taste out of their mouths heading into the weekend series against Alabama.
"I think it's always important to try to gain some momentum," Pawlowski said. "I know our team and I know everyone is frustrated. I'm proud of the way they came back and battled, but ultimately we've got to try to find a way to get some momentum going into the weekend."
Samford wasted little time jumping on top of the Tigers on a muggy Tuesday night with two runs in the first inning. With one out Hendrix walked number two hitter Brad Moss to bring right fielder Saxon Butler to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive he lifted it over the left field wall for a two-run shot, his ninth of the season.
Trailing 2-0 Auburn returned the favor in the second with the exact same scenario. Facing the powerful Kevin Patterson, Samford starter Joshua VanFleteren left a pitch up to the Tigers' Cullen Wacker and the junior college transfer deposited it deep over the right field wall for his first homer of the year to tie the game.
Auburn added to the lead in the third as Justin Fradejas singled to open the inning and with two outs Tony Caldwell reached on an infield single to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Wes Gilmer followed with a single up the middle to score Fradejas for the 3-2 Auburn lead. Patterson then singled to center field, but Samford's Phillip Ervin gunned Caldwell down at the plate to end the inning.
In the bottom of the third Samford took the lead back as number nine hitter Tyler Filliben singled and leadoff man Michael Johnson followed with an infield single off the glove of Casey McElroy into left field. Filliben got a little too aggressive however and was caught at third base for the first out.
It proved to be a big break for Auburn as with two outs Hendrix walked both Butler and Irvin to load the bases. Left fielder Kevin Putkonen made him pay for the mistake as his single to left field scored two runs and put Samford back in front 4-3.
The Bulldogs added to the lead with a three-run fourth inning as freshman Will Kendall came on for Hendrix after three runs had scored and allowed the final run. Auburn came back with a single run in the sixth on a Caldwell triple and Patterson sacrifice fly, but Samford answered with a Butler single to make it 8-4 going to the seventh.
Facing lefty Lex Rutledge Auburn got a break as he walked the first two hitters he faced and uncorked a wild pitch to move both into scoring position with Fradejas at the plate. Getting ahead in the count the senior took a fastball the other way for a double. The hit scored two and made it 8-6 Samford.
Following a Gamache strikeout and a McElroy groundout for out number two, Caldwell came to the plate in a big situation for the Tigers. With two strikes he was barely able to check his swing and get another chance, and he made it pay off with a double down the right field line. The hit scored Fradejas to make it a one-run game.
Trailing by a single run with one out in the eighth, senior Justin Hargett played small ball with a bunt down the first base line for a single. Following a Brooks Beisner strikeout and a stolen base by Hargett to get into scoring position, it was again time for Fradejas to deliver. Facing Arthur Strauss, Fradejas laced one down the right field line and scampered into third base for a triple. The hit scored Hargett to tie the game at eight.
With one out in the bottom of the inning Wade gave up a double, but after getting the second out of the inning he walked Butler intentionally to bring his night to a close. In his first appearance since struggling on Sunday, Wallen got Ervin on a groundout to end the threat and send it to the ninth still tied at eight.
That's the way things would remain until the bottom of the 10th as the Bulldogs came through in the clutch with some help from Auburn. With one out Wallen struck out Michael Johnson, but the ball got by Caldwell at the plate and he reached first base. It proved to be a huge play in the game as Moss hit a ground ball over the second base bag that McElroy could only field and throw to first for the second out.
Instead of the inning being over Samford had the winning run at second with two outs and the dangerous Butler at the plate. Playing the percentages Auburn walked the lefty to face Ervin with two outs. Getting ahead 0-2 in the count, Wallen couldn't finish off the freshman as he got the count back to even before dropping a single just inside the right field line for the game winner.