"We did some things in that inning that aren't going to help you win ballgames," Auburn Coach John Pawlowski said. "You walk two or three guys and then you make a mistake defensively. When it's a close game like this where one run, one pitch, one play could mean the difference, we certainly came up on the short end. These guys have to understand it comes down to a lot of little things and it certainly did today."
Auburn dropped the first game of Sunday's doubleheader 6-4 before falling in a shortened second game because of Missouri's travel plans. Both losses spoiled fantastic outings by a pair of true freshmen. In game one Trey Cochran-Gill allowed just one run in three and two/thirds innings while starter Daniel Koger was even better in game two.
Taking the mound the 6-5 left-hander and Alabama's Mr. Baseball last year allowed just one run on five hits in five innings while striking out five. Pawlowski said both of his young pitchers did well to open their careers.
"I was encouraged by both of those guys," Pawlowski said. "I thought Trey did a real good job in the first game. Then Daniel too. In the first inning had two guys on and didn't give up anything. He really settled in and pitched well and gave us an opportunity. It ran his pitch count up there pretty quick. He's going to be a guy that is going to play a big part of what we're trying to do."
At the plate catcher Blake Austin had two doubles to lead the Tigers as the team finished with just seven hits on the game. Fellow sophomore Jay Gonzalez was 1-2 with an RBI and run scored in the loss.
An Achilles Heel for Auburn last season, the bullpen again struggled to finish things off on Sunday. Coming off of Tommy John surgery, Justin Bryant pitched a scoreless sixth before issuing a walk in the seventh. Zach Blatt came on in relief and allowed a hit and a walk for two runs. Dillon Ortman finished it off by allowing a pair of walks. Pawlowski said the bullpen is something they're going to continue to work with and try to shore up early in the season.
"You look at the first game and I thought we closed that pretty good," Pawlowski said. "This game right here, you always have to keep working on things. We'll continue to work and continue to try to mix and match and see who the best guys are for that situation. Zach Blatt did an outstanding job on Friday night, things just didn't work out today."
Auburn got on the board first in game two as a Gonzalez walk and stolen base set the table for first baseman Garrett Cooper. With two outs the junior college transfer laced a single to right field to make it 1-0 after one inning.
After four scoreless innings to start the game, Koger finally gave up a run in the top of the fifth thanks to some poor defense behind him in the field. With one out and nobody on right fielder Blake Brown walked. Koger appeared to get him right back with a good move to first base to catch him stealing, but a bad throw by Cooper allowed Brown to slide safely into second.
That proved to be huge as he advanced to third on a ground ball to bring Conner Mach to the plate Falling behind Koger worked his way back to a full count before missing for ball four. On the pitch Auburn catcher Blake Austin couldn't secure the inside fastball and that allowed the run to score and tie the game. Koger rebounded to strike out Garcia to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Creede Simpson steals second
Auburn got the leadoff runner on in the bottom of the inning with a chance to take the lead back. Walking on four pitchers, Dan Glevenyak moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman Jarred Smith to bring Austin to the plate. He made up for his defensive play in the last inning with a double off the wall in left field. The hit scored Glevenyak to put Auburn back in front 2-1.
Following a ground ball that moved Austin to third the Tigers added another run thanks to sophomore Jay Gonzalez. Getting a pitch to hit he bounced it through the middle for a single to score Austin for a two-run Auburn lead.
With Koger's day done that meant the third career appearance for Bryant. Locating his pitches and showing good velocity, he sat down Missouri in order in the sixth to keep the Auburn lead at two. However a walk to lead off the top of the seventh would be all for Bryant as Blatt came in. Facing Sal Belfonte the senior gave up a bunt single, but freshman third baseman Jarred Smith compounded the trouble by throwing away the ball at first. That put runners on second and third with nobody out.
Another walk to load the bases and it was time to see if Ortman could get the job done. Facing Champagne with the bags full the sophomore walked him to force home a run and cut Auburn's lead down to 3-2. Conner Mach then lifted a fly ball to left that easily scored the tying run. Eric Garcia then walked to force home the eventual game-winner for Missouri.
Auburn will remain home for a pair of midweek games against Alcorn State on Tuesday and Wednesday. Game times for both are scheduled for 3 p.m. with senior Jon Luke Jacobs getting the start on Tuesday.