Auburn, Ala.--A pair of controversial calls played a big part in Auburn’s 11-8 loss to Georgia Tech on Tuesday night at Plainsman Park as the #7 Tigers fell to 23-8 overall while the Yellow Jackets improved to 16-11.
While the game wasn’t ultimately decided on a pair of calls by first base Jeremy Dupree, they definitely had a major impact on the Tigers. Ahead 8-7 after scoring all eight runs in the third inning, Auburn got a leadoff single by Jonah Todd in the fourth to bring big Daniel Robert to the plate with a chance to add to the lead.
Getting a pitch to handle, Robert turned on a fastball and drilled it down the right field line with the ball landing on the line and bouncing into the right field corner. What should have been an easy double to score Todd wound up a foul ball when Dupree threw his hands up, much to the dismay of the Auburn crowd.
That wound up being huge as the Tigers failed to score, clinging to a one-run lead going to the fifth.
On in relief for Auburn, Daniel Sprinkle hit the leadoff man to bring Kyle McCann to the plate. Getting ahead 1-2 in the count, Sprinkle left a pitch over the inner half of the plate that McCann pulled high to the right field corner for what was ruled a two-run home run.
Auburn right fielder Conor Davis immediately threw his hands in the air to signal a foul ball as did the fans in the K Corner at Plainsman Park. After a conference the officials reviewed the play which clearly showed the ball was foul, but they kept the call as a fair ball.
The two-run homer put the Yellow Jackets in front but Auburn had a chance to tie the game in the eighth.
Leading off the inning, left fielder Bowen McGuffin smoked a ball to deep right field that one-hopped the wall for a leadoff double. Down just a run the Tigers decided to play small ball as pinch hitter Blake Logan’s bunt moved pinch runner J.J. Shaffer to third with one out for freshman Will Holland.
Facing Georgia Tech closer Zac Ryan, Holland was no match as he struck out to bring Luke Jarvis to the plate. Already with a pair of hits on the night, Jarvis popped up to second to leave the tying run 90 feet from home plate.
The Yellow Jackets put the finishing touches on the victory in the ninth inning off Robert. Following a two-out double by Kell Johnson, right fielder Coleman Poje hit a monster shot to left field off Robert to make it a three-run lead for Georgia Tech.
Hoping to get a quality outing out of senior Gabe Klobosits on Tuesday night, Auburn instead got exactly the opposite as a one-out error on shortstop Luke Jarvis opened the door to a five-run first inning for the Yellow Jackets to put the Tigers in a huge early hole.
With Calvin Coker coming on in relief to pitch a pair of scoreless innings, Auburn’s offense broke out with a big inning of its own in the third to take the lead only to see it slip away.
Even though he allowed the home run in the fourth, the story of the night for the Tigers was Sprinkle. Allowing three hits and those two runs in three and one/thirds innings of work with five strikeouts, the sophomore had perhaps his best outing of the season in the loss.
“I was disappointed to not get the game underway properly,” Coach Butch Thompson said. “I thought we were chasing that all night. I don’t think it’s a fair or foul home run or the camera angles that factored in the game, that’s going to happen in a ton of baseball games especially now that we embark for eight games on the road.
“I really believe the whole ballgame was something we were chasing after right out of the gate. Gabe has thrown good. He’s thrown good in the bullpen, but I didn’t see that attacking mode we’ve done a really good job of. I’m sure he’ll make that adjustment if he gets the opportunity again. I thought that really got us behind.”
Things started innocently enough for the Tigers with Will Holland walking with one out to get things going. It didn’t take long for Auburn to get on the board with Jarvis ripping a double to easily score Holland.
Back-to-back walks to Jay Estes and Todd brought Robert to the plate with a chance to do some damage and his single to left field scored two runs to cut the Georgia Tech lead down to two. Another walk to Dylan Ingram loaded the bases before Conor Davis walked to force home a run and make it a one-run game.
Up with the bases loaded, sophomore catcher Mike Rojas made the most of his opportunity in the lineup with a double to score all three runs. By the time Jarvis singled for his second hit of the inning the Tigers had scored eight runs to take a three-run advantage going to the fourth inning.
With a long half-inning of watching his offense score eight runs, Coker didn’t have it when he came back out to start the fourth. Giving up a pair of singles to open the frame, he looked like he would escape when he got a double play to leave a runner on third. That’s when he ran into two-out trouble.
First a single cut Auburn’s lead down to just two runs before a Holland error at third allowed the inning to continue. With runners now on the corners Coker uncorked a wild pitch to allow the second run of the inning to score and cut Auburn’s lead down to 8-7.
That set the stage for the controversy in the fourth as Georgia Tech relievers Jake Lee and Ryan shut down the Tigers the rest of the way to secure the win.
Auburn returns to action this weekend with a three-game series at Texas A&M. Game times for the series are 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday.