Auburn, Ala.--Looking for a big start to an important series against Tennessee, the Auburn Tigers (15-19, 3-10) came out flat and never recovered in a 13-4 Thursday night at Plainsman Park. Committing five errors with six wild pitches and allowing five stolen bases leading to five unearned runs for the Vols, Auburn struggled in every facet of the game in the loss to the Vols (20-14, 4-9) said Coach Butch Thompson.
“Right out of the gate both teams are at the same spot and they come out throwing punches,” Thompson said. “We walked the leadoff guy in the ballgame and just didn’t handle the baseball. I think they got three hits in the first inning and scattered it around. On the bases and everything we didn’t have an answer and I just thought it sped up on us...I just didn’t think we were ready to play from the start.
“I thought I saw a lot of compounding of stuff today. I thought today was more mental. I think we’re at the point where we know we need to win and we know we need to go. I would probably use the word press, I thought we pressed a little bit early that created all that.”
Getting the start, junior Ben Braymer lasted just one inning for the Tigers before giving way to Cole Lipscomb, but by then the damage was done. Allowing four runs on three hits, two of them earned, Braymer struggled with control right out of the gate and the game was over before it started.
Doing his job, Lipscomb pitched into the eighth inning, allowing four earned runs on 10 hits in six and two/thirds innings. It wouldn’t be enough on this night though as Auburn’s offense never got untracked and couldn’t make up for the mistakes all over the field.
It didn’t take long for Tennessee to take complete control of Thursday’s game as Braymer walked Benito Santiago on four pitches to start the game before a wild pitch moved him into scoring position. A single put runners on the corners before another wild pitch moved Chris Hall to second with still nobody out.
An error on Cody Nulph allowed Nick Senzel to reach base and score Santiago with the first run, but the Vols were just getting started. A stolen base by Senzel and a sacrifice fly scored Hall before the second stolen base of the inning moved Senzel to third. He would score on a Jordan Rogers single to make it 3-0. A passed ball and stolen base sent him quickly to third and when he scored on a single it was an early four-run deficit for the Tigers.
Auburn answered back in the bottom of the first as Niko Buentello walked with Jordan Ebert already on first to put the Tigers in business with one out. Following a Blake Logan flyout, Gray doubled over the head of Santiago in right field to score Ebert and put Auburn on the scoreboard. Up with a chance to cut into the lead even more, Jackson Burgreen struck out swinging to end a 38-minute first inning.
With Lipscomb on the mound Auburn settled down to get a pair of scoreless innings defensively before Tennessee would add to its lead in the fourth. A leadoff double started things off for the Vols before Lipscomb got a ground ball to move the runner to third. Things would fall apart from there however as Lipscomb got Hall on strikes, but with the ball in the dirt Logan’s throw to first was off the back of the runner for an error. A single and a double would add three runs for the Vols to push the lead to 7-1.
In the fifth a one-out walk to Anfernee Grier gave the Tigers a little life, but it didn’t last long as he was picked off first base just before an Ebert single. That killed an inning, something that would happen again in the seventh. After reaching on a one-out single and moving to second on a walk to Grier, Haecker was caught leaning at second and picked off.
It proved to be a huge play in the game as Ebert’s second single of the game following by a walk to Buentello loaded the bases for Logan. Going 0-3 on Tuesday night with the bases loaded against Kennesaw State, Logan’s fly ball to left ended the threat to keep the lead at six.
Running out of gas in the eighth, Lipscomb allowed four runs on five hits with a fifth Auburn error thrown in for good measure as Tennessee tacked on four more runs to make it an 11-1 game. The Tigers pushed across three runs in the bottom of the eighth, two coming on a Haecker double, to cut the advantage to seven but a Buentello flyout with a pair of runners on base ended the threat. Tennessee added a pair of runs off Marc Frazier in the ninth for the final tally of the night for the Vols.
The Tigers will send senior Justin Camp to the mound on Friday looking to even the series. The first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the game can be seen on SEC Network.