Daniel Sprinkle (above) pitched well in relief for the Tigers.
Auburn, Ala.--Randy Bell kept Auburn's hitters off balance before faltering in the ninth inning, but by that time his South Alabama teammates had staked him to what proved to be an insurmountable lead as the Jaguars defeated the Tigers 8-5 on Tuesday.
It was a fourth consecutive loss for Coach Butch Thompson’s baseball team, which was out-hit 10-4. The Tigers, who dropped to 18-23, entered the bottom of the ninth inning with just one hit before scoring five times.
“Eighty-eight miles per hour is plenty enough velocity when you are able to throw a breaking ball and a change-up masterfully,” Thompson said of Bell’s work on the mound for the visitors, who improved to 31-11.
“He has done that more than once and he was really good,” Thompson said of the right-hander. “He had a little fatigue there at the end...There is no doubt that he is the story line of the ball game.”
Auburn used six pitchers in the contest. The highlight of the night for Thompson was good relief work by right-hander Daniel Sprinkle and lefty Izaac Yarbrough.
“Between Sprinkle and Yarbrough there we kind of kept it at a four-run game,” said Thompson, who noted that he thought his team was in striking range even though the Tigers were struggling to hit the ball.
It didn’t take the visitors long to grab the lead. A leadoff walk to Drew LaBounty followed by a bunt single from Cole Billingsley put runners on base to score on a two-out triple. The shot by Matt Bolger to deep left center field gave the Jaguars a two-run lead.
Auburn starter Andrew Mitchell got the hook with one out in the third inning after giving up three singles followed by a wild pitch to put the Jaguars up 3-0.
Sprinkle got the call out of the bullpen with one out and runners on second and third base. The freshman was sharp in relief, but the Jaguars added a run when catcher Kyler Deese, making just his second start of the season at the position, mishandled a high, hard one for a passed ball. (The home plate umpire got drilled on the pitch and had to leave the game.)
Sprinkle allowed just one hit in three innings before giving way to Isaac Yarbrough, who ended a threat for the Jaguars in the sixth inning by forcing a groundout and a popup.
Auburn’s fourth pitcher of the night, Gordon Cardenas, gave up two hits and two runs in 1 1/3 innings to make the score 6-0 in the eighth inning. Daniel Robert came on in relief to end the inning in his first appearance of the season and earned praise for Thompson, who said more pitching appearances could be on the horizon for the right-hander, who normally plays first base or in the outfield, but can’t due to a hand injury. It was his first appearance since being injured in the opening game of the Missouri series.
The Jaguars added two runs in the ninth inning off of Marc Frazier before Auburn’s offense put a five on the scoreboard in the bottom of the frame. The big hits for the Tigers were a double by Jordan Ebert and a three-run homer to right field by Damon Haecker, his first of the season. Blake Logan also knocked home a run in the ninth with a single, but it was too little, too late.
“We just have to keep pushing, pushing and pushing,” Auburn’s first-year head coach said. “We were slow out the gate, but we have been doing that a little bit.”
The Tigers return to action with a 6 p.m. game at Plainsman Park on Friday vs. the Kentucky Wildcats.