Kennesaw, Ga.--Despite outhitting Kennesaw State on Tuesday night, the Auburn Tigers couldn’t make the Owls pay as Coach Butch Thompson’s team left 15 runners on base in a 6-5 loss. Dropping to 15-18 overall and returning home to face Tennessee in a three-game series, Auburn is in dire need of something positive and it almost happened in the top of the ninth.
Trailing 6-2, Auburn got singles from Jackson Burgreen and Melvin Gray to get the rally started before Kyler Deese reached on an error to load the bases for the Tigers. A single by Cody Nulph cut the lead to three for Auburn, but a double play off the bat of Damon Haecker scored a second run and left the Tigers with just a single out left to do some damage.
Already with four hits on the night, Anfernee Grier laced a single into left field for hit number five. Deese scored on the play to cut the lead down to just one and bring Jordan Ebert to the plate. Already with three hits and a pair of walks to his credit, Ebert couldn’t finish off a perfect night as his pop-up brought the rally to a close as Auburn fell to 0-8 in one run games this season.
“We got off to a sluggish start and I thought the difference in the game was the first inning and the fourth inning,” Thompson said. “With two outs they knocked in the runs. I know we left 14 or 15 on base through the course, but the guys really stayed in there. Izaac Yarbrough pitched three and two/thirds innings and two hits, really gave us a chance to get back in it.
“We just have to keep battling,” he added. “Jordan Ebert was the one that was going up and down the dugout there in the ninth inning trying to keep everybody engaged. It’s nice to see that from a player and a coach not having to rally that so I respect it. He reached base five times tonight and I really wanted him to get a hit right there at the end because of what he’s demonstrating.”
On the mound freshman starter Daniel Sprinkle allowed four runs on four hits in just one and two/thirds innings to take the loss for the Tigers. He also walked three, one of the big problems for Auburn’s pitching on the night as they walked seven to give the Owls too many free baserunners.
While Grier and Ebert pounded out eight hits the rest of the team combined for just five as no other player had more than one hit for the game. It was a particularly tough night for catcher Blake Logan as he went 1-5 with three strikeouts and came up with the bases loaded on three different occasions and couldn’t push a run across.
Auburn’s offense again struggled without left fielder Josh Palacios and first baseman Daniel Robert in the lineup with both dealing with hand and wrist injuries. While Palacios is day-to-day with the hope that he’ll back this week against Tennessee, Robert’s hand injury is a little more serious. He could be out several weeks, which is a big blow for the Tigers based on how they’ve played offensively the last three games.
Early on Auburn had plenty of chances to put the pressure on the Owls, but time and time again the Tigers failed to get a clutch hit. That started in the top of the first when Grier and Ebert both singled before a walk to Niko Buentello loaded the bases with nobody out. As would be the story on this night it was all for nothing as Logan and Burgreen both struck out before a Melvin Gray fly ball ended the threat.
Kennesaw State would return the favor in the bottom of the first as a pair of singles and a walk by Sprinkle loaded the bases with no outs for the Owls. The second walk of the inning pushed the first run of the game across for Kennesaw State before Sprinkle came back to get the next two hitters. Jeremy Howell then made Auburn pay with a two-run single to make it 3-0 after one inning of play.
The Tigers scratched across a run in the second when Nulph scored on a wild pitch after he reached on a fielder’s choice, but they would leave two runners on base again. A solo homer in the bottom of the second by Kennesaw State pushed the lead back to three for the Owls before they would open things up in the fourth.
With Gordon Cardenas on the mound the Owls got a double and a walk to start the inning before a one-out pitching change to Yarbrough allowed Kennesaw State to break through. Following a wild pitch to move both runners into scoring position, Austin Upshaw singled to score both and make it a 6-1 lead for the Owls.
That’s how things would remain until the sixth when Auburn again put the pressure on offensively. With Nulph on first after reaching on a fielder’s choice, Haecker walked to bring Grier to the plate. His single loaded the bases for Ebert and the senior came through for the third time on the night.
With a single through the left side, Ebert drove home the second run of the game for Auburn and left the bases loaded for the heart of the Tigers’ order. It was more of the game however as Buentello struck out before a Logan fly ball again left the bases loaded and Auburn still down four runs.
The Tigers again loaded the bases in the eighth as a two-out walk to Ebert and a Buentello hit by pitch brought Logan to the plate. In the situation for the third time in the game Logan struck out to leave them loaded with Auburn looking at a 6-2 deficit. That set up the late rally for the Tigers that came up just short.
Auburn returns to action on Thursday night as the Tigers take on Tennessee in the first of three games at Plainsman Park. Game times for the series are 6 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday with Saturday’s start scheduled for 1 p.m. The first two games will be shown on SEC Network.