Auburn Falls 3-1 To Gators In Drop Series

Auburn fell to Florida 3-1 on Saturday to end the regular season 34-22 overall and 13-17 in SEC play.

Gainesville, Fla.--Needing a win on Saturday to take the series from the Florida Gators and improve their chances of making an NCAA Regional, Auburn left eight runners on base in the first six innings and made three errors to drop the game 3-1 and finish with a 13-17 conference record. Heading into the SEC Tournament with an overall record of 34-22 and an RPI that should still be in the 20’s, the Tigers could still be in the mix for a regional, but Saturday’s loss finished off a disappointing end to the regular season with five losses in the final six SEC games.

“We play on Tuesday and we need to find out who we play,” Coach Sunny Golloway said. “It’s more than likely Kentucky. We have to beat Kentucky and that’s how we’ll look at it, one game at a time. It’s just a tough way for us to finish this season. We played two tough ballgames, but we’re overmatched. They’re No. 6 in the country and Sully (Kevin O’Sullivan) has it going here. He’s got it going the way he wants to, it is what it is.”

The game continued a couple of trends for the Tigers and the first showcases a glaring lack of offensive punch at the plate. While Florida used a solo home run from Peter Alonso and a two-run shot from Josh Tobias for all its scoring on the day, Auburn’s lack of power again contributed to a long day offensively with the only run scoring on a wild pitch.

“They weren’t cheap,” Coach Sunny Golloway said of Florida’s two home runs. “They did a good job and they were ready. Our opportunities were bases loaded and one out and we hit into a double play. Then we had second and third and take a called third strike. We had our opportunities, we just didn’t take advantage of them.”

For the season Auburn now drops to 9-22 in games where they allow more than two runs and the number is even more glaring in SEC play with just one win in 18 games when giving up at least three runs.

Auburn was hoping for that on Saturday with sophomore Keegan Thompson back in a starting role, but he lasted just two innings and threw only 29 pitches before being replaced by Dalton Rentz. “He competed and we knew that he would,” Golloway said of Thompson. “

Florida’s pitching was outstanding on Saturday as Alex Faedo got the start, allowing one run on five hits in four and one/third innings. Reliever Taylor Lewis earned the win, giving up just two hits in four and one/third innings. Bobby Poyner picked up the save, getting the final out of the game for the Gators.

With Thompson back on the mound for the first time since April 18, the Tigers were looking to give him some early support and that came in the second inning. Leading things off, Kyler Deese singled and when Austin Murphy singled past the Florida second baseman the Tigers were in business.

Following a Cody Nulph sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position left fielder Sam Gillikin struck out to bring Melvin Gray to the plate. Before he could come through however Faedo uncorked a wild pitch to allow Deese to score and put the Tigers on the board. Gray popped up to end the inning, a sign of things to come for Auburn on Saturday.

After a strong first inning, Thompson ran into trouble against the first batter of the second as Alonso homered just inside the foul pole down the right field line. He came back to keep the game tied at one, but that would be all for the sophomore as he left after throwing just 29 total pitches.

Already leaving three runners on base through the first four innings, the Tigers had an opportunity to break the tie in the fifth after Nulph and Jackson Burgreen both singled to start the frame for Auburn. Trying to bunt the runners over, Gray struck out when his two-strike bunt went just foul down the third base line. A walk to Damon Haecker loaded the bases for the Tigers, but Lewis came in to get Anfernee Grier to hit into a double play to end the threat.

Leaving another runner in scoring position in the top of the sixth following a one-out double by Blake Logan, the Tigers ran into trouble thanks to some shaky defense as Deese’s second error of the game allowed the leadoff runner to reach. Going to the bullpen for left Izaac Yarbrough against the switch hitter Tobias proved to be the wrong move for Auburn as he drove a 1-0 pitch deep over the wall in left field for a two-run homer. That put the Gators ahead 3-1 and left the Tigers in a serious hole.

Auburn wouldn’t seriously threaten again as the Tigers dropped the final game of the series. Now they’ll head to the SEC Tournament for a first round game on Tuesday. Times and opponent will be determined later on Saturday.

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