Auburn, Ala.--Winless on the season, the Southern Jaguars scored five runs the first four innings and that was the difference in the game as Auburn made run after run, but in the end Butch Thompson’s Tigers came up short 6-5 to drop the final game of the series. Despite 14 hits Auburn couldn’t get over the hump as the Tigers fall to 4-3 with the disappointing loss.
“Any loss is tough, but that’s three one-run losses,” Thompson said. “Coming out we got the ball up and their guy go the ball down. Then we had the baserunning deal in the first inning that we wound up scoring no runs. It’s our park and our wall and for the back runner to run up the back of the lead runner was unfortunate.
“I kind of liked us playing from behind for much of the ballgame to see what we could do, but it really takes away some of that aggressive base running. We clawed and clawed, but Gabe (Klobosits) left the baseball up and I thought Casey (Mize) of coming in there to finish the game and give us a chance to win. That’s all we could ask for.”
The story of the game came on the mound where Southern starting pitcher Daniel Franklin controlled the game in his four and two thirds innings pitched. Allowing just two runs on eight hits he gave the Jaguars a chance to get deep into the game. On the other side of the ledger it was another rough outing for Auburn Tigers starter Gabe Klobosits. Allowing four earned runs in just three innings against Sacramento State last weekend, the big junior college right-hander allowed five earned runs on seven hits in just three and one/thirds innings.
One of the few bright spots on the day was the pitching of true freshman Casey Mize. Allowing just one run on three hits in five and two/thirds innings, Mize struck out three and threw just 68 pitches. His performance kept the Tigers in the game and was one Thompson said was impressive because of what he asked of Mize late.
“That last mound visit was telling him ‘you’ve got to pitch to get out of this situation’,” Thompson said of a talk with Mize in the ninth inning. “He was able to throw three changeups in a row to get a ground ball to get us out of that inning where they wouldn’t score anymore. Not only, I thought, did he have a good arm and threw the baseball hard, but at the end of the day he wound up pitching and I think that serves him well moving forward.”
Casey Mize was once again impressive on the mound for the Tigers.
At the plate Josh Palacios and Niko Buentello both had three hits for the Tigers with Buentello driving in two runs, one on his third home run of the season. Daniel Robert and Cody Nulph added two hits each for Auburn on a day when the Tigers couldn’t string anything together offensively.
Auburn had a chance to get on the board in the first inning when Palacios singled and Jordan Ebert was hit by a pitch to put two on base for big first baseman Buentello. Getting a pitch to drive the other way he launched one off the top of the green monster in left field. That should have easily scored at least one run, but Palacios hesitated to make sure the ball wasn’t caught. Off and running early after seeing the ball, Ebert never looked up and ran into an out when Palacios had to hold at third. That cost Auburn an early run and gave Southern some momentum coming to the plate.
The Jaguars made the Tigers pay in a big way in the second inning when Jose DeLa Torre and Dondrayas Harris opened with singles to bring big John Pope to the plate. With just one hit in 10 at-bats this season Pope got something he could handle and drove it over the wall in left for a three-run shot to put Southern in front.
Auburn finally got on the scoreboard in the third inning thanks to a pair of doubles from freshman catcher Jonathan Foster and Palacios. Moving to third on a balk Palacios was stranded at third, the story of the day for the Tigers. The run was erased quickly by Southern however as Klobosits walked a pair of Jaguars before giving up a single to Anthony Valdes. Facing number nine hitter Javeayan Williams, Klobosits gave up a double the other way to score two and make it 5-1.
Mize would come on to shut the door on Southern in the Southern offense in the fourth, but the damage was done. The Tigers tried to crawl out of the hole with single runs in both the fifth on a Buentello single and in the sixth on a Damon Haecker groundout to bring the score to 5-3. Auburn got even closer in the seventh thanks to one swing of the bat from Buentello. With two outs he drove a ball just over the wall in left-center for his third home run of the season. That made it 5-4 Southern and gave the Tigers even more momentum, but that would be gone just one inning later.
Controlling the game since entering in the fourth, Mize allowed his first hit when Harris singled. A wild pitch then moved the runner to second with Pope at the plate. A ground ball down the third base line went under the glove of Haecker, allowing the runner to score from second and put Southern back in front 6-4.
Auburn once again put the pressure on the Jaguars in the bottom of the eighth when pinch hitter Jackson Burgreen doubled with one out before moving to third on a Blake Logan fly ball. With Grier at the plate shortstop turned closer Troy Lewis balked to allow Burgreen to score and cut the lead to one. Keeping the inning alive Grier singled to bring Palacios back to the plate. Ripping a single to left field it looked like Auburn would get the middle of the order to the plate, but Grier tried to stretch it from first to third and was thrown out to end the inning and end Auburn’s chances for the sweep.
“That was tough and that was the difference in the ballgame,” Thompson said of the two plays late. “It was one right in his face where we trust Anfernee to make that decision because he’s running from first to third. He thought he could get it, but the guy made a perfect throw. It was the third out of the inning, kind of the cardinal sin of baseball, but it’s hard to find fault with the aggressiveness of the play.
“They scored the one run that wound up being the difference maker,” he added. “It’s 5-4 and maybe we don’t get an out there, but we 100 percent all know we have to keep the baseball in front of us. We failed to do that and that’s why I’m talking about a defeat instead of a victory.”
Auburn returns to action this week with a pair of games at home against Alabama A&M. The first pitch on both Tuesday and Wednesday are scheduled for 3 p.m.