Auburn, Ala.--Trying to sweep Saturday’s doubleheader and leading 5-4 going to the ninth inning, Auburn’s bullpen allowed five runs as the Tigers fell 9-5 to George Washington for the first loss of the season to drop to 2-1 on the year.
Overall, Coach Butch Thompson said he saw some positives from his team but there were too many negatives in game two and that cost his team.
“Our goal today was to see if you could focus over a long period of time,” Thompson said. “Two nine inning games is new for us for this team starting in January. We played so clean the first game today, a 2-0 ballgame. We had a 9-0 game and then a 2-0 game, both games were pitched beautifully and defended beautifully.
“Come out in the second game and were not as clean. I know their first four runs were after two outs, especially in the first inning we had two outs and nobody on. It was just not quite the same execution, but you get to the ninth inning and think you might get away with it.”
After throwing back-to-back shutouts to open the season, Auburn’s pitching wasn’t as sharp in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader and it started right out of the gate and showed up again in the ninth.
On the mound for the Tigers, Gabe Klobosits retired the first two hitters in the first inning before running into trouble but wound up allowing just those two runs on five hits in four innings. It was the bullpen that was the issue for Auburn with Calvin Coker, Daniel Sprinkle and Ryan Watson allowing seven runs on nine hits in the final five innings.
With Sprinkle on the mound trying to protect a one-run lead it was all George Washington in the ninth inning. Following a leadoff single, Sprinkle struck out the second hitter attempting to bunt but that would be it for him as three consecutive hits and a wild pitch led to three runs for the Colonials to put them in front 7-5.
Watson didn’t fare any better as he gave up a single and a double before retiring his final two hitters. That was too little and too late for the Tigers on this day as the offense failed to hold up its end of the bargain as well.
With 15 fly ball outs and the bottom of the batting order going a combined 1-15, Auburn left 11 runners on base in the loss. Thompson said that was definitely an issue and something they’ll address moving forward.
"I thought you could have played right and I could have played left," Thompson said. "That's how easy it was to defend us today. Again, back giving credit to a left-handed pitcher (GW starter Shane Sweeney), he had us off-time and we really swung at the elevated pitch over and over. It was up in the zone and produced a lot of routine fly balls. When those don't leave the yard with people on base it becomes a very routine affair and easy defense. I give the left credit, but our approach did not change as the speed of the game required to have more success."
Trailing 2-0 early, Auburn answered back in the third thanks to the hot bat of Ingram. Collecting a pair of RBI in the season opener on Friday, the junior college transfer got a chance to deliver early in Saturday’s second game and didn’t miss his opportunity.
With one out Jay Estes got it started with a single and moved to second after Joshua Anthony was hit by a pitch. A deep fly ball to center from Robert put runners on the corners with two outs and Ingram made GW starter Shane Sweeney pay for a mistake with a double to left. That scored both Estes and Anthony to tie the game.
In the fifth George Washington went back on top after adding a run off reliever Calvin Coker with yet another two-out single to make it 3-2 Colonials.
The Tigers answered back to move in front thanks to some two-out magic of their own. Anthony got it started with a walk followed by a Robert single to put runners on first and second for Ingram. Continuing his strong play, Ingram singled to center field to score Anthony and tie the game once again.
Later in the inning with the bases loaded pinch hitter Jonah Todd sliced a single through the left side to put Auburn in front 4-3 but Ingram was caught rounding third too far to end the inning.
That’s how things would remain until the first error of the weekend proved to be costly for the Tigers when a short-hopped throw from Ingram to first put the tying run on base. Following a sacrifice bunt, Nate Fassnacht’s single scored the runner to make it a 4-4 game.
Needing something positive to happen late, Auburn got a walk to Damon Haecker coming off the bench in the bottom of the eighth to start a two-out rally. A Jarvis single through the left side put runners on first and second for the Tigers and brought Estes to the plate against George Washington closer Eddie Muhl.
Getting a pitch to hit, Estes ripped a single to left-center to score Haecker and put Auburn back in front 5-4. It wouldn’t be enough on this day however as bullpen issues cost the Tigers a doubleheader sweep.
Auburn and George Washington close out the series on Sunday at noon with freshman Davis Daniel on the mound for the Tigers.