Auburn, Ala.--After going 30-3 a year ago when holding the lead after seven innings, for the the second time in as many days the Auburn Tigers squandered a late lead in a loss as Sacramento State scored two in the eighth inning to tie the game and won it in the 12th to take the series from Butch Thompson’s club on opening weekend. Despite four RBI from Niko Buentello and three hits from Cody Nulph along with two hits each from Anfernee Grier, Josh Palacios and Jordan Ebert, Auburn was 0-9 with two outs and had just two hits the last six innings and that was the story of the game for the Tigers said Thompson.
“I just tip my hat to Coach Christianson and his ballclub,” Thompson said. “They have a club that will do good in the WAC. They were able to keep pitching and they just came up with timely hits and never quit swinging and playing defense. I think they turned a few double plays. They earned the victory.
“We’re not ready to abandon what Coach (Doug) Sisson and any of our hitters are trying to do at the plate right now,” he added of an offense that swung at a lot of first pitches down the stretch. “I think it comes down to execution against a really good ballclub. Hopefully playing somebody this good early directed us in some things we’ve got to get better at and gives us some direction on how hard we’ve got to work on some things.”
Auburn was looking for a strong finish to the weekend on the mound from starter Gabe Klobosits, but that didn’t happen on Sunday as he struggled from the outset. Allowing two runs in the first inning and lasting just three innings, the big right-hander gave up four earned runs on four hits before turning things over to reliever Ben Braymer.
One of the bright spots for the Tigers on the mound, he allowed pitched three scoreless innings before running out of gas in the eighth when he gave up two runs. Freshman Casey Mize was very solid in three innings, allowing just two hits to keep Auburn in the game despite the offense going cold.
“Ben Braymer and Casey Mize came in on one day’s rest and were very competitive,” Thompson said. “I thought they competed hard for us and at the end I kept thinking something good was going to happen for us in the ninth, tenth or eleventh and we were going to win the game having the last at-bat. They hung in there and played the game very well and I tip my hat to them.”
Quickly down two runs in the first, Auburn’s offense got that back and more thanks to one swing of the bat from Buentello. Following a walk to Grier to lead things off and a single by Palacios it was time for Buentello to more damage on the weekend. Already with a home run and six RBI in two games the big first baseman got a pitch to drive down in the zone and didn’t miss it. Launching one high into the air, Buentello bounced it off the batter’s eye in center field to give the Tigers a 3-2 advantage.
After Sacramento State scored two in the second inning to move back in the lead, Auburn added a pair of runs in the third after Ebert and Jackson Burgreen both singled to put the Tigers in business. Singles from Nulph and Grier pushed across the runs for the Tigers to put Auburn back in front 5-4.
In the sixth the Tigers pushed the lead out to a pair when Grier singled and stole second before moving to third on a wild pitch. With one out Buentello added to his RBI total with a groundout to score Grier and make it 6-4 Auburn. Sacramento State tied the game in the eighth with a pair of runs, setting up the first extra inning game of the season.
Auburn failed to score in the ninth after Buentello walked to start the inning, setting up Sacramento State for a scoring opportunity in the 10th. Leading things off Trent Goodrich’s ground ball took a bad hop and careened off Nulph for a leadoff double. Brandon Hunley followed with a single to left that looked like it would give Sacramento State the lead, but Palacios gunned Goodrich at the plate to keep the game tied. Mize closed the door on the rest of the inning to keep it 6-6.
That’s how things would stay until the 11th when Sacramento State put the final nail in the coffin off reliever Tavo Rodriguez. The leading hitter for the visitors, Matt Smith doubled and following a sacrifice bunt he stood at third with the go-ahead run. Instead of walking the hitter Auburn chose to pitch to Goodrich and he came through with a sacrifice fly to make it 7-6. The Tigers threatened in the bottom of the 12th, getting a pair of runners on base, but a double play finished things off to give Sacramento State the win.
Auburn returns to action on Tuesday at 3 p.m. when the Tigers take on Kennesaw State at Plainsman Park.