It was a tough outing for senior pitcher Derek Varnadore. Taking the loss, Varnadore allowed seven earned runs on 11 hits in six innings of work and struck out only three. Pitching in relief, Auburn true freshman Chase Williamson allowed a run on three hits in two innings. That wasn't the kind of night Auburn needed facing Arizona ace Kurt Heyer (2-0). Throwing 118 pitches in only seven innings, the junior allowed just one unearned run on six hits and struck out four.
"It was one of those games where we got some early momentum, we're up 1-0, and then they have a big inning," Pawlowski said. "Against good teams you make a mistake or you don't make a couple of plays and they put some big swings on it. They had a big inning, scored five runs and never really looked back after that."
Jay Gonzalez, Creede Simpson and Cullen Wacker all had three hits for the Auburn offense, but falling behind early put the clamps on the Tigers' running game. Trailing by five runs in the third inning Auburn cut down on the running game and finished with just one stolen base in the game. Pawlowski said that second inning really put his team behind the eight-ball and they couldn't overcome the deficit.
"You just don't want to have base runners thrown out, you don't want to make outs on the bases," Pawlowski said. "What you try to do is hopefully piece two or three hits together. I thought they played solid defense and certainly made the plays when they got up. They had a lot of momentum and we never could get it back.
"With our offense those guys have to keep battling," he added. "I think we had some quality at-bats, just not enough. When you look 1-9 we've got to compete 1-9 and you've got to compete for all nine (innings). I thought at times we did, but we never really had too many big opportunities to put some runs on the board. They pitched extremely well and there weren't many opportunities for us. We'll come back tomorrow and we have to be ready to play"
After each team had a hit in the first but failed to score, Auburn got on the board in the top of the second and missed a chance to more. Leading off the inning, Creede Simpson ripped a single off the arm of Heyer on the mound that had the Arizona trainers out checking on the junior pitcher. Playing small ball, Cullen Wacker's ground ball moved Simpson to second base and into scoring position for Dan Glevenyak.
The sophomore junior college transfer, Glevenyak put down a punt towards third base and had Simpson off and running towards third base. Digging towards first, Glevenyak ran through the bag and his momentum knocked the ball loose at first base. The error allowed Simpson to score from second and give Auburn the 1-0 lead. Another error with two outs put a pair of runners on for Bobby Andrews, but his bunt wasn't good enough as he was thrown out at first to end the threat.
Arizona wasn't fazed as the Wildcats came back to break the game early in the bottom of the second inning. Three straight singles to open things loaded the bases with nobody out, but Varnadore came back to strike out Brandon Dixon for the first out of the inning. The bottom of the order proved to be a problem for the senior however as number nine hitter Bobby Brown got his first hit of the year, a two-run single, to give Arizona the lead.
That was just the start of the bad news as Varnadore balked with runners on first and second, moving them both into scoring position. It proved to be huge as Joey Rickard's shallow fly ball to left field was deep enough to score Riley Moore for the 3-1 lead. Alex Mejia then put the finishing touches on the big inning with a deep home run to left field. It was the first homer of the season for the Wildcats and made it 5-1 after just two innings. A single run in the third gave Heyer a five-run lead to work with on the mound for Arizona and the veteran junior made it stand up. Auburn again threatened in the fifth however as Jay Gonzalez reached with a one-out single and moved to third with two outs on a single from Garrett Cooper. That brought Simpson back to the plate and he hit a smash up the middle that looked like it would get into center field, but Mejia made a diving stop and threw out Simpson at first to end the inning.
Already with a two-run homer to his credit and a big defensive play, Mejia delivered again for the Wildcats to extend the lead in the sixth inning. Leading off the inning with a double, Dixon was still at second with two outs as Mejia came to the plate. After fighting back to get two outs, Varnadore grooved the first pitch to the shortstop and he singled into left field to score Dixon and make it 7-1 Arizona. Another single run in the eighth inning off Williamson gave the Wildcats the seven-run victory in the series opener.
Auburn will face Arizona for two games on Saturday to finish off the series. Game times are scheduled for 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Central.