Nashville, Tenn.--Auburn got a quality start from senior Justin Camp, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a struggling offense as the Tigers fell to Vanderbilt 5-2 in the first of three games against the Commodores. Allowing four runs on eight hits in seven innings, Camp was the hard-luck loser as the Tigers fall to 23-31 overall and 8-20 in SEC play.
Playing without senior Jordan Ebert and junior Niko Buentello in Thursday’s first game because of a violation of team rules and with Josh Palacios out once again because of soreness in his wrist, Auburn’s lineup looked very different against Jordan Sheffield in the series opener. That lack of firepower played a part in the Tigers’ struggle to score runs as Vanderbilt starter Jordan Sheffield earned his eighth win, allowing two runs on four hits in six innings.
Blake Logan was the hitting star for Auburn in game one, going 3-4 with a pair of double and both RBI for the Tigers. Auburn managed just three more hits in the game as Vanderbilt’s pitching escaped trouble time and time again in the win. Coach Butch Thompson said Camp gave his team a chance to win, but they just couldn't get over the hump.
"Justin did a great job," Thompson said. "He got us deep into the ballgame. He really battled and just did a great job. I thought he out-pitched, in some regards, Sheffield who is a great pitcher and was kind of struggling at times. When you've got good stuff you've got that margin for error. I thought our best shot was when we got the bases loaded and Melvin (Gray) absolutely crushed a ball that (Bryan) Reynolds ran down in the left-center field gap. We just have to come back out this second game. We'll start with (Cole) Lipscomb this second game and hopefully try to get a 'W'."
Auburn got off to a good start in Thursday's game, getting the offense going in the first inning. Working a walk to start the game, Kyler Deese moved to second when Melvin Gray was hit by a pitch. Following a pop-up by Anfernee Grier and a strikeout by Jackson Burgreen, Logan hit a blooper that Jeren Kendall dove for in right field but couldn’t grab. The double scored both Deese and Gray to give Auburn an early 2-0 lead.
Vanderbilt would get a run back in the bottom of the first when Ethan Paul doubled off Camp to start the game. With one out Bryan Reynolds singled to put runners on the corners for the Commodores and freshman Julian Infante’s fly ball made it a one-run game after one inning of play.
Auburn would threaten in the fourth off Sheffield as Damon Haecker and Cody Nulph singled to start the inning for the Tigers. Calling on freshman catcher Jonathan Foster to bunt, he instead fouled off the first two attempts before his ground ball to third retired Haecker. Another ground ball, this one by J.J. Shaffer, put runners on the corners for the Tigers with two outs and the top of the order due up.
Continuing his good approach at the plate, Deese worked another walk from Sheffield to load the bases for Gray. Instead of making Sheffield work, Gray instead swung at the first pitch and his fly ball to center left the bases loaded for Auburn.
That would be the theme for Auburn on this day as they got scoring opportunities in both the fifth and seventh innings only to hit into double plays in both to kill the rally.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt got all of the offense it would need in the bottom of the fourth. Reynolds started things off with a single and with one out the speedy center fielder scored on an Alonzo Jones double to tie the game at two. Coming back to get the second out, Camp allowed a single through the right side to Will Toffey to put Vanderbilt in front 3-2.
That’s how things would remain until the bottom of the seventh when the Commodores would add an insurance run in an unconventional way. Getting the first two outs in the inning, Camp allowed singles to Paul and Kendall before a walk to Reynolds loaded the bases. Pitching out of the windup, Camp’s slow delivery at the plate was noted by Vanderbilt and they put on a triple steal. Paul had no problems beating the pitch to the plate as he slid in easily for a steal of home to make it a two-run cushion for the Commodores.
Auburn again threatened in the eighth against reliever Patrick Raby when a one-out double by Logan and a walk to Haecker put two on base for the Tigers and brought Nulph to the plate. The senior couldn’t pull the trigger however, watching strike three for the second out of the inning. Foster’s fly ball to center ended yet another scoring opportunity for the Tigers.
Vanderbilt added a final insurance run in the bottom of the eighth to give Raby a three-run cushion to work with and he made it stand up.
Auburn will face Vanderbilt at 6 p.m. on Thursday night in game two of the series. The Tigers are expected to start Lipscomb with both Ebert and Buentello also expected to be in the lineup.