It was another frustrating day for the Tigers (13-5, 0-2) at the plate as they walked nine times against the Commodores, including five times to lead off an inning, but couldn't make it pay off on the scoreboard. Coach John Pawlowski says it was another frustrating day for his team, but they'll be ready to play on Sunday.
"I know the guys are frustrated," Pawlowski says. "We had nine free bases today and had guys in scoring position, but unfortunately we weren't able to come up with the big hit in those situations. I know the team and I know they are frustrated, but we've got to keep working."
The loss spoiled another fantastic outing from Auburn starting pitcher Michael O'Neal. Pitching six innings, the junior allowed just three runs on three hits and only threw 65 pitches before giving way to Conner Kendrick. Auburn's best pitcher the first month of the season, Kendrick struggled as he allowed two runs on three hits in just one and one/third innings.
"He has done a very good job for us," Pawlowski says of O'Neal. "Again today he gave us a chance to win and got us deep into the game again today. You just like the way he's been throwing the ball. Every time out he's given us a chance. It was another very good outing for him, but unfortunately we weren't able to give him support."
At the plate Auburn struck out eight times and left 11 on base. That is the eighth time this season that the Tigers have left at least 10 on base in a game, but Pawlowski says he believes his offense will come around.
"I give Vanderbilt a lot of credit," Pawlowski says. "I think they've thrown the ball extremely well when they needed to. We had quite a few walks we could have done something with today, but we didn't. Tomorrow is another opportunity. We're going to get that offense going."
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon the game was scoreless until Vanderbilt (18-2, 2-0) finally got something going against O'Neal in the fifth inning. Only allowing his first hit in the fourth inning, the lefty hit Mike Yastrezemski to lead things off, but came back to get Vince Conde on a fly ball to bring Brett Wiseman to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive, the lefty lined one past Jackson Burgreen in right field and raced all the way around for a triple to put the Commodores on the board. Joel McKeithan followed with a sacrifice fly to center field and just like that the Tigers trailed 2-0.
In the seventh Vanderbilt put the finishing touches on the win with a pair of runs to seal the deal. Facing Conner Harrell, O'Neal walked him to lead things off and that was it for the lefty on the day as Auburn went to the bullpen for Kendrick. The move didn't work this time around as, following a sacrifice bunt, Conde walked and Wiseman again delivered with a single to right field to score Harrell. With runners on the corners McKeithan's bunt back to the pitcher was good enough to score Conde for the 4-0 advantage.
Auburn finally got to Beede in the bottom of the seventh as Damek Tomscha singled to break up the no-hitter with one out and Dan Glevenyak's two-out infield single put a runner in scoring position for pinch hitter Blake Austin. Facing reliever Steven Rice, the junior catcher went down on strikes to end the threat.
The Commodores extended the lead in the eighth off Kendrick as Tony Kemp doubled off the wall in left field and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt to bring Conrad Gregor to the plate. On a 2-2 pitch the left-hander lifted a fly ball down the left field line for a double. That easily scored Kemp to put Vanderbilt up 5-0.
Once again Auburn's offense got something going in the bottom of the eighth as Jordan Ebert walked to lead things off. Following a Ryan Tella strikeout, back-to-back singles from Patrick Savage and Cullen Wacker loaded the bases with Garrett Cooper coming to bat.
Facing reliever Carson Fulmer, Cooper went down on strikes to bring Tomscha to the plate. Working the count, the third baseman earned a walk to force home Ebert and put the Tigers on the scoreboard. With Kody Ortman coming to the plate, Vanderbilt turned to closer Brian Miller and he got the job done as a fly ball brought the inning to a close with Auburn down four.
What little chance Auburn had disappeared in the ninth inning as the Commodores added three more runs off reliever Chase Williamson on five hits to make it an 8-1 final at Plainsman Park.
Savage, Wacker, Tomscha and Glevenyak each had singles for the Tigers with Tomscha adding two walks. Freshman right fielder Jackson Burgreen walked three times in the loss.
The Tigers will try to salvage a win on Sunday with sophomore Rocky McCord getting the call for the 1 p.m. start.