Knoxville, Tenn.--Junior Keegan Thompson gave the #10 Auburn Tigers a chance to win on Friday night, staking his team to a 3-1 lead after six innings, but struggles out of the bullpen and a poor night at the plate were costly in a 5-4 10 inning loss to Tennessee.
Striking out 15 times on the night and leaving 11 runners on base, Auburn (26-11, 9-5) couldn’t add to its lead at the plate and on the mound it was a lack of execution out of the bullpen that proved too much to overcome said Coach Butch Thompson.
“It’s just tough competing every day,” he said. “When you win it feels good and when you wind up short it doesn’t feel the same. Keegan just battled for us, much like he looked last week but he just didn’t surrender anything. As soon as we got to our bullpen it wasn’t as good.
“I just told them this game will come down to execution,” Butch Thompson added. “You’re competing and battling, and the players from Tennessee are competing and battling. This all comes down to execution.
“We played as good as we’ve played at any point and time until we got to the seventh inning. Tennessee outplayed us the last four frames and got the victory. We just have to keep playing the same game and it will come down to execution tomorrow.”
Back on the mound for his second start since missing a week because of shoulder tendinitis, junior Keegan Thompson did everything that was asked of him on Friday. Allowing just one run on seven hits in six innings while striking out five, he left the game with the Tigers in front 3-1 but the bullpen couldn’t get the job done.
Coming on in relief, Calvin Coker allowed a pair of runs and only retired two batters in the seventh before Andrew Mitchell finished off the seventh. With Auburn up 4-3, Mitchell allowed a leadoff single to Jordan Rodgers to start the eighth and balked him to second to set up Tennessee for some small ball.
A bunt by Benito Santiago moved Rodgers to third with one out before the Tigers put Andre Lipcius on base to set up the double play with one out and holding onto a one-run lead. It didn’t work out in Auburn’s favor however as pinch hitter Matt Waldren’s fly ball was deep enough to score Rodgers to tie the game at four.
Mitchell had to escape a jam in the ninth just to keep Auburn in the game however. Walking the leadoff man before the Vols bunted him to second, speedy pinch runner Jay Charleston tagged up on a pop up behind first base to advance to third base with two outs. Burying a breaking ball in the dirt, Mitchell got some help from catcher Blake Logan as he retrieved the ball and tagged out Charleston trying to score to end the ninth and send the game to extra innings.
Taking over for the Tigers in the 10th, Corey Herndon allowed a leadoff single and then proceeded to walk the next two Tennessee hitters to load the bases with no outs. That’s when Andre Lipcius put a cap on his solid night at the plate with a sacrifice fly to score the winning run for the Vols.
The Tigers were led at the plate by leadoff man Jonah Todd. Going 2-3 with two runs scored and a pair of walks, the center fielder raised his team-leading average to .366. It was the middle of the order that caused the issues for Auburn on Friday as Luke Jarvis, Josh Anthony and Dylan Ingram combined to go 0-13 with six strikeouts and six runners left on base.
Scoreless through the first two innings, Auburn got the scoring started in the third with Blake Logan the catalyst with a leadoff single for the Tigers. Following a Bo Decker strikeout, Todd got a pitch to handle and sliced it down the left field line for a run-scoring double. On second with two outs, Todd scored in a Daniel Robert single to make it a two-run lead for Keegan Thompson to work with early.
In the fourth Auburn would add a run thanks to some shaky defense by the Vols, which would be a theme for this game. Leading off the inning, Jarvis reached on an error and moved to second on a wild pitch to get into scoring position with no outs. Following outs by Josh Anthony and Dylan Ingram it would be up to Logan to get the job done and the senior sent a single back up the middle to score Jarvis and make it 3-0 Tigers.
Allowing three hits in the first three innings and getting a big double play to get out of a jam in the first, Keegan Thompson allowed a leadoff single to Benito Santiago to open the bottom of the fourth. When Lipcius followed with a single to put the Vols on the board it looked like Tennessee would have a rally, but Thompson retired the next three batters to keep the lead at two.
In the fifth Auburn got runners to second and third with two outs and a chance to extend the lead but Jarvis struck out to leave them stranded and keep Tennessee in the game. Following a solid bottom of the fifth, Keegan Thompson would again run into trouble in the sixth but would get a double play to end the frame and end his night after six strong innings.
Looking for some insurance, Auburn got the run back in the seventh as Todd and Estes both singled with one out to put a runner in scoring position for the heart of the order. Following a Robert strikeout, Conor Davis hit a ground ball to shortstop that was booted for an error allowing Todd to score.
A walk to Jarvis loaded the bases with two outs for the Tigers with Anthony up with a chance to maybe end the game with a hit. Going to Kyle Serrano out of the bullpen proved to be the right call for the Vols as Anthony struck out looking to leave the bases full of Tigers.
It proved to be costly for Auburn as Coker couldn’t get the job done coming out of the bullpen on this night. Allowing a leadoff single to Dom Thornton, Lipcius pushed him around with a double to make it two-run game. Following a bunt to move him to third, Lipcius scored on a ground ball to make it 4-3 Tigers.
Once again Auburn had a chance to extend the lead in the eighth inning as a pair of two-out walks to Bowen McGuffin and Todd gave Estes a chance to add to the lead but he struck out looking to end the frame.
That would be the last time Auburn would threaten as the Tigers went down in 10 innings to the Vols.
It will be up to freshman Davis Daniel to get the job done on Saturday for Auburn as he gets the call in the 1 p.m. rubber game start in Knoxville.