Hornets Sting Tigers In Home Opener

Auburn's baseball home opener was a disappointing one for Sunny Golloway and the Tigers as Alabama State won 9-3.

Auburn, Ala.--The first home game of the Sunny Golloway era didn't go as planned for Auburn as Alabama State came into Plainsman Park and outplayed the Tigers in every phase of the game in a 9-3 win. It was the first-ever win for the Hornets over Auburn on a day when the Tigers got 11 strikeouts from its pitching staff, but also four walks and three hit by pitches. Golloway said in all phases of the game the Tigers have to get better and that needs to happen quickly.

"Right now the coach is going through a learning process because I don't think the players have changed much," Golloway said. "They bought in completely in the fall and I then I haven't seen much of what we did in the fall. We're going to have to have a heart-to-heart and figure it out. The only stat that matters, and I have tried to explain this to our pitching coach and pitchers, it's not about your ERA and how many strikeouts you have it's about wins and losses.

"I have tried to talk to our hitting coach, it's not about batting average and it's not about giving up sac bunts, it's about winning ballgames," he added. "Right now I'm not sure we're all on the same page. Not the coaches, but our players as to what it's going to take to win. I don't want to take anything away from Alabama State. I thought they played great and made some great defensive plays and drove the ball off the wall a couple of times. They made us defend and kept the ball out of the air. When it got in the air it went to the wall. When it wasn't going to the wall it was hard on the ground. You had to make plays. We didn't do that. We hit lazy fly balls to them that were easy to catch and they made a couple of really good plays when they had to. They had the lead and the energy and the momentum. I think we've got our work cut out for us and a tremendous challenge ahead of us."

On the mound starter Justin Camp got off to a roaring start but limped home in the home opener, allowing three earned runs on five hits in five and two/thirds innings while striking out eight. Auburn's bullpen didn't hold up it's end of the bargain as four pitchers combined to allow six runs on just four hits in three and one/third innings.

At the plate Auburn managed just five total hits off six Alabama State pitchers. For the year the Tigers are now hitting just .217 as a team.

Carrying over its offensive struggles from the opening weekend, Auburn couldn't get anything going early against a solid Alabama club coming off a win over South Alabama on Tuesday. In the fifth Damek Tomscha walked with one out to bring Jordan Ebert to the plate. A passed ball moved Tomscha into scoring position, but seeing the third baseman back Ebert put down a perfect bunt for a single to put runners on the corners with just one out and Blake Austin coming to the plate. Trying to put the pressure on, Ebert caught caught leaning and was thrown out at second base on a stolen base attempt. Austin walked two pitches later, but a Damon Haecker fly ball out brought the threat to a close for the Tigers.

Unlike Auburn, Alabama State didn't miss its opportunity in the next inning. Leading things off, diminutive Elinar Muniz walked to bring the top of the order up for the Hornets. Consecutive singles from Richard Amion and Richard Gonzalez followed to load the bases with nobody out and bring right fielder Cesar Rivera to the plate. Hitting in the third spot in the order and with some power, Rivera played a little small ball on the Tigers with a bunt to the right side that Camp couldn't field cleanly. The single put Alabama State up 1-0, but they weren't done.

Justin Camp

Following the first out of the inning Emmanuel Marrero tried to reach on a bunt as well, but instead of putting it on the ground his drag bunt attempt flew over the head of Keegan Thompson at first base for a single to score Amion from third. Camp recovered to strike out Dillon Cooper for out number two, but a walk to Branden Castro pushed home Gonzalez for the 3-0 Alabama State lead.

Needing something positive, Auburn got a leadoff double from true freshman right fielder Anfernee Grier to open the sixth. It was the first extra-base hit of the season for the Tigers and only the second true scoring threat of the day. With a runner in scoring position already Auburn decided to bunt him over with Dan Glevenyak executing the sacrifice. Ryan Tella then drove Grier in from third with a sacrifice fly to center field to cut the lead down to two runs with three innings remaining.

Alabama State got the run back in the top of the seventh as reliever Reid Carter hit Muniz to lead off the inning. A bunt and wild pitch moved him around to third base where he later scored on a fielder's choice. That put the Tigers in a tight spot, but they would have a chance in the bottom of the inning. With both Damek Tomscha and J.J. Shaffer on after being hit by pitches, Austin worked a full count before lacing a double into left field to score both and make it 4-3. A sharp single into right field was hit too hard to score Austin from second, but gave Auburn runners on the corners with the top of the order coming to the plate. That would be it however as a Grier pop up and a Glevenyak groundout pushed things to the eighth inning with the Tigers down a run.

The Hornets weren't going to be denied on this day though as a leadoff triple from Marrero started a huge inning that finished off the Tigers. After getting a strikeout, Cochran-Gill allowed a single to Brandon Castro before Dexter Price hit a smash deep to left field that just glanced off a leaping Shaffer at the wall in left-center. That pushed across two runs for the Hornets and before the inning was done there would be three more. With closer Terrance Dedrick on the mound a Muniz ground ball to third was thrown away at first for an error for put runners on second and third for Amion.

With the infield in to try to cut down the runner at the plate, Amion did his job with a bouncing ball over Dedrick's head into center field. That scored two and made it 8-3 Hornets. Alabama State finished off the scoring with a slow roller back to the mound that Dedrick fielded cleanly, but slipping on the throw he sailed his toss into right field for the second error of the inning. That allowed the fifth run of the inning to score and put the finishing touches on the home opener for the Tigers.

Auburn returns to action this weekend in the Tiger Classic at Plainsman Park. The Tigers will take on Arkansas Pine-Bluff at 6 p.m. on Friday, California at 6 p.m. on Saturday and East Tennessee State on Sunday at 2 p.m.

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