After winning on Saturday the Tigers had the momentum heading into Championship Sunday, but in baseball momentum only goes as far as your starting pitcher. That was the difference in game three as Auburn freshman Daniel Koger didn't have it, allowing four runs on five hits in just two innings for the Tigers. Relievers Jay Wade and Chase Williamson allowed seven runs in the next two and two/thirds to put Auburn in a hole it couldn't climb out of.
On the flip side Vanderbilt starter Kevin Ziomek allowed just one earned run on four hits in six and two/thirds innings to get the win. Even though the Tigers had just six hits for the day, Auburn Coach John Pawlowski said everything started on the mound in the loss.
"It was just a poor day for us," Pawlowski said. "We've talked about where this game starts and it certainly starts on the mound. The first three hitters of the day I think we were behind 2-1, 3-1 and a four-pitch walk. We didn't pitch it today.
"I thought we had some mental mistakes defensively out there, things that we've got to address and correct. Then we didn't have too many chances offensively because he pitched extremely well. It was just a poor all-around day for us today."
With the loss Auburn falls to 7-8 in SEC play, tied with Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Georgia for sixth-place in the league. Kentucky and LSU lead the way at the halfway mark at 11-4 with Florida third at 9-6 and South Carolina tied with Arkansas at 8-7.
After getting out of trouble in the first inning and throwing 22 pitches, Koger wouldn't be so fortunate in the second as Chris Harvey's double sparked the Vanderbilt offense in a big way. Moving the runner to third on a bunt, the Commodores got on the board with a sacrifice fly for the 1-0 lead.
With two outs and nobody on Koger appeared to be in good shape, but a walk followed by Tony Kemp's second single of the day put a pair of runners on for veteran Anthony Gomez. Struggling to find his rhythm, Koger left a pitch over the plate and paid for it as Gomez doubled home both runners for the quick 3-0 lead for Vanderbilt.
A Mike Yastrzemski triple to open the third was the end of the day for Koger as Wade came on in relief. He did a good job of keeping the damage to a minimum as he allowed just the runner to score from third base on a Spencer Navin single and nothing else in the inning.
With Ziomek cruising against the Tigers through three innings, allowing just two hits, Auburn finally got something going in the fourth as Ryan Tella walked and moved to second on a Garrett Cooper ground ball that was booted by the Vanderbilt shortstop. Two consecutive ground ball outs couldn't do anything for Auburn however, but Creede Simpson's two-out single scored Cooper to break the ice for the Tigers. With a chance for more Zach Alvord popped up with two runners on to end the inning with Auburn down three.
Vanderbilt put away the Tigers in the bottom of the inning with three more runs. Joel McKiethan led things off with a single and scored moments later on a triple by Kemp. A Gomez single followed to score Kemp and make it 6-1 Commodores. The freshman Williamson came in and issued a walk before a ground ball scored the third Vanderbilt run of the inning.
Down by six, Auburn continued to be stymied by Ziomek as the Tigers went three up and three down in the fifth before the Commodores tacked on another run in the bottom of the inning. Three more in the sixth put this one all but in the books as Vanderbilt led Auburn 11-1 going to the seventh inning.
The Tigers made one final run in the seventh as pinch hitter Kody Ortman walked to lead off the inning and moved to second on Simpson's second single of the day. Auburn loaded the bases with two outs as Vanderbilt brought in Philip Pfeifer out of the bullpen. A walk to Tella forced home a run, but Cooper's fly ball to the outfield wasn't deep enough. The out ended the inning and the chances for Auburn as Vanderbilt cruised home with an 11-2 victory.
Auburn will return to action Tuesday night vs. Troy and Wednesday night vs. Alabama A&M before hosting the streaking South Carolina Gamecocks next weekend at Plainsman Park.