Tigers' Rally Comes Up Short Vs. Boilermakers

Auburn drops game to Purdue as ninth-inning rally comes up short.

Auburn, Ala.-- The Tigers rallied with three runs in the bottom of the ninth, but fell just short as Purdue pounded out 17 hits against five Auburn pitchers Friday night on its way to a 9-8 win at Plainsman Park.

"I'm proud of the way our guys battled back," said Auburn coach John Pawlowski. "We just dug ourselves a hole early. You dig yourself a hole early against good teams, it makes it tough.

"You know, we grabbed the lead, but just couldn't put them away," added the head coach. "They kept battling back, and it's just unfortunate we couldn't finish it tonight."

Purdue (6-1) broke open a 5-5 game in the top of the eighth, scoring three runs, and tacked on another in the ninth to take a 9-5 lead.

Down by four runs with a steady rain pouring down, the stage was set for a dramatic comeback by the Tigers. With Jay Gonzalez, Creede Simpson and Ryan Tella loading the bases with no outs, Garrett Cooper knocked in Gonzalez to pull the Tigers within three. Cullen Wacker followed with a double scoring Simpson and Tella and closing the gap to one.

But the rally fell short as Dan Glevenyak flied out and Jarred Smith struck out swinging to end the game.

Dillon Ortman (0-1), who replaced starting pitcher Derek Varnadore with one out in the fifth inning, took the loss for the Tigers, giving up one hit and one earned run in two innings pitched. Purdue reliever Blake Mascarello (2-0) was credited with the win.

The Tigers (6-5) were led on offense by Wacker, who finished 2 for 4 from the plate with four RBIs.

"He's a guy that is experienced, a quality hitter," noted Pawlowski. "He can handle any type of pitcher out there. He's given us some really good at-bats."

Simpson battled 3-for-5 for the game, scoring two runs and knocking in another, and Tella was 2-for-2 with three walks and three runs scored.

Purdue got two 4-for-6 performances at the plate from Tyler Spillner and Eric Charles to lead the way for the Boilermakers. The two combined for three RBIs and five runs scored.

Auburn left eight runners on base for the game, while Purdue stranded 11. The Tigers attempted only two stolen bases on the night and were thrown out both times.

The Tigers struggled on defense, committing five errors on the night, which Pawlowski didn't blame on the rainy conditions.

"I just think we mishandled some balls," he said. "We didn't play a solid defensive game. The things we talk about are pitching and defense, and we just mishandled some balls and we've got to get better at that."

Derek Varnadore started for the Tigers.

Varnadore got off to a shaky start for the Tigers, giving up seven hits and four runs in the first two innings, while Purdue starter Joe Haase was sharp for Purdue, consistently hitting the corners and allowing no hits until a Bobby Andrews' infield single in the bottom of the third.

Varnadore settled down in the third, though, striking out Ryan Bridges and getting Barrett Serrato and Andrew Dixon to pop out.

Varnadore gave up 11 hits and four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings.

"The first couple of innings we had nothing going our way, but they battled back and they got themselves in a position to win a ball game, and that's all you can ask," Pawlowski said. "But obviously, we're very disappointed. We're all disappointed, obviously, with the final outcome."

The Tigers' bats finally came to life in the fourth. Simpson and Tella both reached base to start the fourth, beating throws for infield singles. A triple by Wacker off the left field wall brought both home to bring the Tigers within two runs at 4-2.

The Tigers took the lead in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Simpson knocked home Andrews with an opposite-field single to right to pull the Tigers within one at 4-3.

After a walk to Tella and a single by Garrett Cooper, Wacker came through again with a single to right scoring Tella, tying the game 4-4. Another single by Glevenyak scored Cooper, putting the Tigers on top 5-4. The Tigers couldn't take advantage of the bases loaded as Blake Austin flew out to end the inning.

Purdue answered in the top half of the sixth, getting a run off a sacrifice fly, and scored the go-ahead run with one out in the top of the eighth when Eric Charles singled in David Miller from third, making the score 6-5.

"Lots of things to work on—the biggest thing is we got to continue to mature as a team," Pawlowski said. "We got to continue to understand what it takes to be successfull and what it takes to win at this level."

The Tigers will take on Charleston Southern at 4 p.m. CST Saturday in the Tigers' second game in the Auburn Tournament. Charleston Southern dropped its first game of the tournament 16-2 earlier Friday against Southern Miss.

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